A crisis is just a crisis
The author, a lawyer, is the deputy political news editorof the JoongAng Ilbo.
“We need to restore growth and lead the global economy by turning the transitional crisis into a chance to make another leap,” said Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung at his keynote speech at the JoongAng Forum on Nov. 24. Lee has kept his personal motto, “Crisis is opportunity,” as the backbone of his campaign message since he announced his presidential bid on July 1.
Discussion of crisis is a frequent subject raised by those who dream of becoming “king.” Former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak in 2007, former Saenuri Party emergency committee chair Park Geun-hye in 2012, and former DP leader Moon Jae-in in 2017 also mentioned the country’s crisis when announcing their presidential candidacy.
The word “crisis” appears 16 times in Lee’s declaration of candidacy. He may have strategically thought it would be advantageous for him to link the objective crisis of the pandemic and consequent chaos to his strongman tendency. But his theory of crisis is quite unusual.
In his book on Lee, the author describes all the hardships Lee has overcome since he was a young laborer, including quitting his factory job due to a wrist injury on a grinder and his father opposing his taking of the middle school credential exam. Despite various criminal records, non-mainstream roots and countless rumors, Lee was elected as the mayor of Seongnam and governor of Gyeonggi. So, “crisis is an opportunity” is more of an empirical rule than a rhetoric for Lee. As a result, he finds opportunity in the “zero carbon society,” the U.S.-China discord and even the Covid-19 pandemic.
Only recently did this empirical rule crack. It was a mistake for him to perceive all the suspicions over the Daejang-dong development as a “chance to promote my achievement and skills.” Rather than turning it into an opportunity, the crisis grew further. On Nov. 20, Lee wrote on social media, “About the suspicion related to the Daejang-dong scandal, I only emphasized returning profits to the residents, thinking, ‘It’s okay as long as I am clean.’” He added, “I failed to read the disappointment about unfair profits.”
But the problem with his empirical rule could be the “Crisis is opportunity.” How many people have repeatedly experienced the magic of turning crisis into opportunity in life? Most crisis lead to failures and ordeals no matter how hard one tries.
People already know too well that crises with uncertainties like the pandemic and diplomatic discords cannot be resolved at once. Also, the best response to some crises is management, not a breakthrough, and an opportunity for someone is the price of another’s crisis.