Lies, exaggerations and policy
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Ripley Syndrome refers to antisocial personality disorder in which a person denies their own reality and life in a world of lies and falsehood. The term is from the 1955 novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” featuring Tom Ripley who lives in his own distorted reality and commits crimes for his own benefit. The syndrome is also called the Ripley disease or Ripley effect. The character in the novel unhappy with his life kills his rich friend to live his life. He lies and commits crimes to hide his real identity. The French adaptation, the film “Purple Noon” featuring Alain Delon, was released in 1960 and another movie under the same title as the novel was released in 1999.
The Ripley Syndrome is sweeping the Korean political scene. Kim Keon-hee — the wife of opposition People Power Party (PPP) presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol — is a heroine here. A ruling Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker likened her to Shin Jung-ah, a curator exposed to have falsified credentials to form her relationship with senior government officials in 2007. The lawmaker claims Kim’s track record of falsehood is much longer, accusing her of suffering from the Ripley Syndrome. His comment drew a heavy backlash because accusing the wife of a presidential candidate of a character disorder went too far, even in the dirty mudslinging of a presidential race.
The 2002 American crime film “Catch Me If You Can,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, features a con artist who poses as a pilot, doctor and a prosecutor. He is eventually caught, but is recruited by the FBI to serve the remainder of his sentence working with a bank fraud unit.
Kim cannot be outright called a con artist because while apologizing for her past, she admitted she had exaggerated her credentials on paper “to make herself look better.” She is not suffering from the Ripley Syndrome or living a false life.
Despite her teary apology, the DP is relentless in ridiculing and attacking her. If she had hurt others by lying about her credentials, she must pay the price, they say. False words and writings have such grave consequences.
But Lee Jae-myung — the presidential candidate of the DP — is hardly an honest man. Of course, he could argue the claims about his son carry a political motive. But his involvement with the Daejang-dong scandal is different. Finding the truth has become difficult as some of the key suspects and witnesses have chosen to end their lives. But the case may end up with a special prosecutor. Since Lee admitted he had “designed” the Daejang-dong development project, he cannot avoid the suspicion of playing a role in the lucrative development project.
The governing power excels most in denying and exaggerating reality. When a policy ends in failure, it does not bother to apologize. A public policy disaster cannot be compared to lies of a wife of a presidential candidate or corruption in an urban development project by a local government, as that affects people’s lives and national future.
The government’s arrogance to control prices can be one of the symptoms of Ripley Symptom. Its policies to control soaring real estate prices through regulatory measures, raise the minimum wage rapidly to ensure livelihood for the lower-income individuals, force employers to convert irregular workers to permanent status and phase out nuclear energy are all incongruous with reality. Housing prices went up sky-high, part time jobs became rare, and electricity bills have shot up .
The number of the self-employed with paid hires has been declining for the third consecutive year due to a steep increase in the minimum wage. The 36-month fall in the tally means the phenomenon occurred before the outbreak of the Covid-19 in February last year. The ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality while phasing out nuclear reactors also is impossible. Boasting about the world standard in pandemic measures on vaccination rates is also delusionary.
As unrealistic policies have been pressed on, they ended in a disaster. Still, the government insists it is right and asked the people to have faith in its policies. A lie can lead to another lie. DP politicians, who sought to raise the appraisal value of houses to toughen taxes on multi-homeowners, are calling to freeze taxes ahead of the presidential election. They contradict themselves. They have no care for truth.
Public hope for a change in the governing power is escalating due to their disillusionment. The poor policies must be undone. We must prevent the Ripley syndrome from contaminating our society.