Stuck in a trap

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Stuck in a trap

Choi Sang-yeon
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.



A poll survey is based on science. It should not go wrong if the sampling and margin of error are well-managed. But in reality, finding the right people for random sampling and getting reliable answers is difficult. To raise the response rate, money and time as well as political judgment may be needed.
 
I have become skeptical of poll results, especially under the incumbent government which has been selective of poll findings to justify its populist policy run. The latest poll showing a skidding approval rating of President Moon Jae-in is convincing, however. The public can hardly be happy with the liberal administration, given the pitiful state of the country in many fronts.
 
The government has been acting beyond reason and understanding. The unblushing effrontery by Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae has become uncontrollable. She has pressed ahead with a disciplinary committee meeting on Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl to oust him after he started investigating abuse of power by the government and the Blue House. Instead of replacing her for the unprecedented showdown between the justice minister and the chief prosecutor, the president nonchalantly demands prosecutorial reforms. Many polls showed an overwhelming disapproval of Choo. But the government sticks with poll results in its favor.
 
Real estate policy has become the symbol of the government’s impotence. Its policy has outraged and pained almost all adults living in this country. The land minister was finally replaced. But her successor is an even more hard-line, antimarket figure.
 
Quarantine measures are equally baffling. Sandwiches can be eaten in diners but not in cafes. Right-wing groups were accused of taking a “murderous” act by holding rallies amid the pandemic. But union protests were condoned even when virus spread has become more serious. Ideology also influenced quarantine.
 
Despite ambiguities, contradictions and flaws the government never explains clearly are the reasons for its actions. It somehow turns things around to find a favorable light. Government and household debt have reached colossal levels. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki stresses the need to issue national bonds worth 100 trillion won ($91.6 billion) to cover a snowballing government deficit. Even though the finance minister was poor at safeguarding financial integrity, he has been encouraged by the president to “keep on the good work.” As an opposition leader, the president vehemently criticized the conservative administration for devising “debt-financed growth policy.” Hong even argued housing demand was being eased in Seoul.
 
Polls are used to measure public sentiment. The government has been justifying its ideology-led policies to get support from a majority of people. It reasoned public need when it handed out universal relief funds. When policy failed to draw desired results or caused side effects, it dug into more tax funds to cover up for its mistakes.
 
Somehow it thinks it can get away with its failures as long as it can make amends with spending. But the poor state does not change — with worsening unemployment and shattered businesses. People could be less confused if the government explains why it adheres to certain policies and shuns others.
 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel passionately explained why the country would have to raise a net debt of 180 billion euros ($215 billion) next year — the second-biggest new borrowings in post-war Germany — during a federal budget debate. She elaborated on the financing and payment scheme to seek public understanding.
 
The Korean president also had promised to be clear and communicative in contrast with his impeached predecessor. But he holds a press conference once a year. He did not have an official meeting with the interim head of the main opposition. Moon claims his government has achieved “integration” in policies. Public finance is not the money for the governing power to spend freely. The government does not belong to a certain person or party. The people have the right to hear why the government uses the budget and power so recklessly.

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