In search of hope
The author is policy director of the JoongAng Ilbo.
In spring, my college-aged daughter suggested we invest in stocks. The Kospi, which fell as low as 1,300 in March, was recovering and in the range of 2,000. I advised against it, citing downside risks from a global slump and overheated stock market. She nevertheless opened an account on her own and invested her savings mostly on blue chips like Samsung Electronics.
I was wrong and she profited big time. My wife teased me for having missed out on a lot of money. Still, I was thankful for Korea Inc. for not betraying a number of small investors who turned to the stock market amidst Covid-19 woes and the real estate market upheaval.
The prosecution and the Justice Ministry were at war throughout the year. The Blue House and ruling Democratic Party (DP) fielded veteran politician Choo Mi-ae to replace Justice Minister Cho Kuk, who resigned over a family-related corruption scandal, to take on Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, who spearheaded investigations into the administration. Choo’s counterattack was merciless as clearly seen in her decisions to demote prosecutors close to Yoon, interfere with investigations and try to suspend the chief prosecutor through a disciplinary action for the first time in Korea. Past governments at least kept to procedures. But the Moon administration did not hesitate to kick off a relentless campaign to oust Yoon, even at the risk of undermining its goal of prosecution reform.
The year of the pandemic had some blessings in disguise — suddenly clean air and skies. Stalled factory activities in China and tough social distancing rules in Korea reminded us that skies can be clear. The world has been sickened with climate change from global warming. Scientists warned of irreparable damage, but governments paid little heed. Natural sights this year showed there is hope yet if humans start acting differently.
It is sad I cannot open the new year on a more hopeful note. The Covid-19 pain is ongoing and does not show any signs of letting up. Politics make matters worse. We cannot find hope anywhere. Even the environmental upside can be overturned.
The economy remains tumultuous. The world is coming to another standstill amid winter outbreaks. We cannot know if vaccines will finally end the agony. The Moon administration has been spending at colossal levels, but we cannot know if the economy will turn the corner.
Prosecutor General Yoon has survived a battle with the government. Yet it remains uncertain if the prosecution would really be reborn as a politically neutral institution and defender of civil rights. It stays mum about past controversies and internal problems, including sexual discriminations.
The government has been proud of its ability to control the coronavirus through tough enforcement of quarantines throughout the year. But the cost was a neglect of vaccine programs. We must not repeat past mistakes if we really want to find hope this year.