No more crocodile tears
The author is an emeritus professor of journalism at Hanyang University.
Pale red apricot flowers and yellow cornelian cherry flowers bloomed in the South. Unlike the politicians sweet-talking to promote themselves, the flowers stood at the eye level of the people. They are pretty on their own, and as a group, they made a wonderful spectacle. They bring wonder in the restricted world due to Covid-19 pandemic, the lawless world of greed and hypocrisy revealed by the LH speculation scandal.
Korea has been busy with mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan. The by-elections should not have been born, but the drama of elections full of uncertainty is a device like the heart of democracy. Political powers and parties are forced to at least pretend to listen to the voices and thoughts of the ordinary people. It is the only chance to bring judgment to the politicians they don’t like. Because of the impregnable fortress of the two-party politics, people are voting for the same old figures, but it is fortunate that voters get to exercise the power to select candidates through an election.
An election is a black hole. The ruling party put a sign on the street to “remember and cherish” the Seoul mayor who killed himself over sexual harassment allegations. The by-election swallowed the lack of conscience that led to a secondary assault on the victim by mayor Park Won-soon’s supporters. Ambiguous repentance and accountability for the sexual misconduct is incomplete, but the distant path between an “alleged victim” and a “victim” has opened. It also made the ruling camp that never apologizes to clearly say “sorry.” A ruling party lawmaker who was the spokesperson of the election camp resigned and said, “I sincerely hope the victim can return to normal life and get out of the distressing days.”
Aristotle said, “One aspect of freedom is being ruled and ruling in turn.” By being a ruler and being ruled, citizens are not subordinate to the country but make the government. Athenian democracy, the prototype of democracy, believed that it was not democracy for a ruler to be separated from the citizens and continue to rule, and it tells us that governance and the government’s role are not some amazing power or slogan but the following of common sense.
Athens had a population of up to 300,000 around BC 480 to BC 360, including citizens and their families, resident aliens and their families, and slaves. Ancient Athens cannot be applied to Seoul with a population of 9.6 million, and Busan with a population of 3.4 million. The competency of mayoral leadership to handle the economy and politics of Seoul and Busan is important as the capital and the second largest city of one of the top 10 economies of the world. It is especially crucial as the hopes for jobs and owning a home have fallen.
But the empathy and communication skills of the candidates and parties need to be considered as well. Without empathy and communication, economy and politics cannot work properly. Empathy is not denying the existence and position of the others, trying to understand and admitting right and wrong of their own words. Communication is decreasing difference and expanding common points between an opinion and the opinions of others. Asserting one’s own opinion is not communication. To support democracy, conversation and discussion and sharing of opinions is necessary. My side and your side should not be distinguished, and discord over the past, present and future should be discouraged. Rather than internal empathy and communication, open empathy and communication will lead to a happy and stable democratic community.
The opposition party visited Gwangju and made a belated apology, while a person who served as the Blue House chief of staff is already attacking it. The ruling party has changed its position and called a victim of the late Seoul mayor Park Won-soon’s sexual misconduct a “victim,” not an “alleged victim. I hope they would show that these changes of perspective that suit common sense and justice are not crocodile tears.
In the middle of the pandemic, this absurd by-election costs more than 80 billion won ($70.7 million), but this is the reason we need an election.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.