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Walking in someone’s shoes

Aug 02,2019
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Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. [YONHAP, NEWS1]
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Yi Jung-jae
The author is a columnist at the JoongAng Ilbo.

If I were to choose one adage from 5,000 years of Chinese philosophy, I would choose, “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” It is a lesson needed in Korea today. From this perspective, former Blue House Secretary for Civil Affairs Cho Kuk’s anti-Japan stance must have a rationale. A legal aide to the president should be a paragon of cool-headed reason and strict legal principles. But as the Korea-Japan confrontation began, he has used firm and harsh language over reason and has clearly delineated sides. The Moon Jae-in administration and he were seemingly on the side of justice, while the opposition and critical media were on the evil side. Cho wrote, “Koreans who deny the Supreme Court ruling on wartime forced labor deserve to be called ‘Japanese collaborators.’” He also said, “criticizing and undermining the decision may be ‘freedom of speech,’ but it is unethical. What’s important is whether you love the country or benefit the enemy.”

If you cannot avoid a fight, you must win, especially a fight between nations. If you want to win, you need to unite. Even kids know that you would lose by being divided. So I think Cho has another intention to attacking insiders while fighting outsiders. Who is Cho Kuk? He is the core of the Blue House — and arguably the best strategist and planner of the leftists — who devised “The Plan for Liberal Administration” during the conservative government.

His “anti-Japanese” framing worked. The approval rating for the president and the ruling party rose to an eight-month high. Even the stubborn opposition Liberty Korea Party accepted a meeting with Moon and the ruling Democratic Party at the Blue House. The government’s crusade against Japan also helps save face as the Korean economy struggles. There’s no better aid for next year’s general election than a nationalistic rallying cry.

Let’s exchange places now. Cho is completely right in saying the court ruling must be respected. But it is another matter whether the ruling can be executed. Credit is a combination of willingness and competency. Even if you are willing to pay back a debt, it will become delinquent if you don’t have the money. Even though the ruling is based on the universal value of humanity, things may not go according to the Korean court’s will — if it would be executed on powerful nations like the United States, China, North Korea or Japan. The current power even wanted is to impeach a judge who ordered South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyeong-soo, President Moon’s close aide, to be in custody for a trial.

Let’s exchange places again. Consider four invented cases. First, an anti-Japanese patriotic group files a lawsuit with a Korean court to impeach Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the crime of economic invasion, and the court rules for his impeachment for violating the universal global economic order. How can this be executed?

Second, a Japanese court fines President Moon Jae-in 100 million yen ($915,372) for breaking the comfort women agreement, and as the fine is not paid, Japan wants to seize assets of the Korean Embassy in Tokyo. Should they be seized?

Third, Lotte files a lawsuit for damages from China’s Thaad retaliation, and a Korean court rules that the Chinese government should pay 2 trillion won ($1.68 billion) in compensation. Who will get the money and how? Will Korea go to war with China to get the money?

Fourth, victims of the 1950-53 Korean War file a lawsuit against North Korea, and each is awarded 100 million won in compensation. Which government would execute the ruling?

There is nearly a zero possibility of executing the four rulings. I made extreme assumptions based on Cho’s fundamentalist principle. If Korea can implement all four court rulings, I will follow Cho’s words to “raise the bamboo spear.” I will wear a headband and fight in the front. If not, Cho’s bamboo spear and his anti-Japanese position would be mere political engineering rapidly ruining the value of liberal democracy in this land.

I thought I lived in a liberal democratic country and never separated liberty and democracy. I have always believed that there is no liberty without democracy and vice versa. I am surprised that it may not be the case. If I have to choose between liberty and democracy, I am 100 percent on liberty. If having a different opinion is attacked as something to be eliminated, I have to call it democratic dictatorship. Isn’t it that very dictatorship the monster that the current administration fought to oust in the past?

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 1, Page 30