Let nature run its course
The author is an international affairs and security editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“Our forests have self-restoring power. They recover faster and healthier than forestation. The naturally restored forests are ecologically healthy, more resistant to disaster and restore better. Why use enormous amounts of money meaninglessly? Please let it be. Don’t touch it. Please don’t do anything,” said Kangwon National University’s life science Professor Choung Yeon-sook in the Goseong, Gangwon, chapter of novelist Kim Hoon’s essay book “Bicycle Trip.”
When Gangwon requested 120 billion won ($100 million) from the central government to restore the 238 square kilometers (58,811 acres) of damaged forests after mountain fires in the East Coast in April 2000, Prof. Choung strongly opposed human intervention, arguing natural restoration was more effective than artificial afforestation. In fact, since the devastating Goseong wildfire in April 1996, the areas that were left unattended have been restored to healthy forest faster than the areas of human intervention.
This is something the Moon Jae-in administration should keep in mind when implementing policies. If the government intervenes in something that can be resolved by the market or time, it can cause a serious problem. In the game of Go, it is called a “self-damaging movement of stones.”
The Moon administration needs to review whether its recent North Korea and real estate policies are not such cases. Critics say that the policy for the peace of the Korean Peninsula or stabilizing real estate market make people more unstable and make the real estate market more confused than before.
At an address commemorating the opening of the new National Assembly on July 16, President Moon expressed his hopes for the institutionalization of the outcomes of his past inter-Korean summits and for a first-ever inter-Korean inter-parliament meeting in the 21st National Assembly. He added that the foundation for peace on the Korean Peninsula would be strengthened if the legislature could guarantee the irreversibility of peace on the Korean Peninsula.
A month before the address, North Korea entirely refused cooperation with South Korea by demolishing the liaison office in Kaesong, North Korea. In a statement on July 10, Kim Yo-jong — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister and first vice director of the Workers’ Party of Korea — accentuated that she did not think an event like U.S.-North summit would happen this year, adding that only Washington needs it and that’s not beneficial for North Korea.
While Pyongyang is not willing to talk to the United States, Seoul has reshuffled its foreign policy and security staffers and adheres to inter-Korean talks. Some people wonder why the government is going so far when North Korea is not willing to talk. Some even question if the government wants inter-Korean talks in order to accumulate accomplishments for the administration instead of establishing a peace system in the peninsula.
In a game of two parties, if one side adheres to negotiation, its stance is weakened. If Seoul goes for a talk only on such issues as North Korea is willing to talk, denuclearization will become distant and security uncertainty would intensify. Rather than being nervous, we need to show patience for the right timing while strengthening our readiness over the North’s nuclear threat.
The same goes for the Moon administration’s real estate policy. There have been 22 measures, but they all failed to clear the uncertainty. Regulations were made to control price increases, but housing prices continue to rise. The government had good intentions to stabilize housing prices and help people buy homes, but forcible policies triggered adverse effects.
Adam Smith stressed the role of “the invisible hand” in the Wealth of Nations. The fall of communism and victory of capitalism confirmed that the market is superior to government planning. The Moon administration neglected reality and pursued idealism, only to fail in both North Korea policy and real estate policy.
When things are tangled, you need wisdom to let time solve the problem. An efficient government acknowledges existing social order and promotes reasonable thinking rather than endeavoring to realize a utopia created by human intelligence. Existing social order is a product of past experience. Unripe leftists can cause harm by underestimating systems and practices and blindly pursuing changes. The harm is even more harmful than the deep-rooted evils the government rolled up its sleeves to root out.
The Moon administration needs to take advice from leftist philosopher and University of Toronto Prof. Joseph Heath’s book “Filthy Lucre; Economics for people who hate capitalism” (2009). He argued that leftists spend too much time making and advocating policies with good intentions, but with little chance of success and not much help to the beneficiaries they intend.