Could the frog jump out at times of crisis?

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Could the frog jump out at times of crisis?

The author is a political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“If you put a frog in boiling water suddenly, it will jump out, but if you put a frog in lukewarm water and boil it slowly, it will die without realizing the danger.” The famous metaphor is called boiling frog syndrome.

The thought originates from claims made by some American scientists through experiments in the late 19th century. If you increase the temperature slowly, by less than 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) per minute, the frog won’t know its life is at risk. The phrase is often used to alert people of economic or climate crises.

However, Harvard University professor of biology, Douglas Melton, says that if you put a frog in boiling water, it will die instead of jumping out, and if you put a frog in cold water and start to heat it up, it will jump out before the water becomes too hot. In boiling water, its proteins would change — like the solidifying of egg whites exposed to heat — and the frog cannot escape. But if the water temperature increases gradually, the frog will eventually recognize the danger and get out of the pot.

There is an experiment video on YouTube showing the reaction of a frog when the water’s temperature is raised by 5 degrees Celsius every 10 minutes. In this footage, the frog jumped out before the water boils. It showed that, though frogs are cold-blooded and change their body temperature according to the surroundings, they can accurately feel the “fatal temperature” and react.

Until shortly before the April 7 by-elections last year, the People Power Party (PPP) was like a frog in a pot of boiling water. After the controversial opposition to free school meals in 2011, the party lost to the Democratic Party (DP) in all policy debates. And before the 2016 legislative elections, the PPP was condemned by citizens for its nomination controversy. After President Park Geun-hye was impeached in 2017, the party lost four consecutive national elections until 2020.

Riding on the wave of its March 9 presidential and June 1 local election victories, the PPP is getting ready for an internal hegemony battle. Over PPP leader Lee Jun-seok’s departure to Ukraine and the start of the party innovation committee, the loyalists to President Yoon Suk-yeol and Lee are fighting. Some mention that Lee should be reprimanded by the ethics committee or step down early. It is interpreted as a battle over hegemony for the parliamentary elections two years later.

The boiled water is yet to cool down, but the internal fight reminds me of the “official seal crisis” at the time of the 2016 legislative elections. It is doubtful if the conservative party would have any energy left to escape the pot when it falls into a crisis again.
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