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Move to the future (KOR)

Nov 09,2019
After looking at South Korea’s birthrate of 0.977, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, called it a “genocidal society.” Three years ago, our young generation described our country as a “hell.” Utterly frustrated, they gave up on finding jobs, getting married, having kids and owning homes. What has changed since then? The Moon Jae-in administration must sincerely answer that question.

The liberal administration has so far been engrossed with digging up what it calls “past evils” to create a fairer society after setting up various committees across the board to clean up dirt. The prosecution’s relentless investigations led to the punishment of high profile figures from past conservative governments, including the chief justice. In the meantime, a group of judges with a certain ideological affiliation took major posts in courts.

The country was also sharply split in a heated ideological battle over the founding of the nation — say, over whether to award a medal of honor to independence fighter Kim Won-bong, who later served as a top official in communist North Korea. It stigmatized some of the conservatives as “local Japanese” for their collaboration with Japan during colonial days.

The administration not only brought back the past, but also turned the clock back in the realm of freedom of the press. The justice ministry drafted internal ordinances barring reporters from directly contacting prosecutors and banning their entry to prosecutors’ office when they produce “fake news.” The government also filled top posts at major public broadcasters with pro-government figures.

In the process, the values of fairness and justice championed by President Moon were critically damaged — particularly after the Cho Kuk scandal. Its sense of justice — based on whether you are its enemy or friend — made our society become more unfair than before. When driving a car, the driver looks in the rear-view mirror to go forward safely and efficiently. The nation must go forward, not backward.

Despite the dazzling speed of the development of artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data, this shortsighted government does not know what to teach students. Despite its repeated emphasis on creativity, it stops short of presenting an ambitious blueprint to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Instead, it sticks to an egalitarian belief that a removal of elite high schools translates into education reform. Without a true vision for the future, the government looks at fierce generational and gender conflicts as if it were a mere bystander. Judging reality from the perspective of the democracy movement of four decades ago is a feeble approach.

Moon must open the door to a bright future. It may not be too late. As Winston Churchill said, each generation has an obligation to hand over to the next generation more than what it received from the previous generation. Moon has two and a half years left until he leaves the Blue House. It is the time to go forward, not backward.

JoongAng Sunday, Nov. 9, Page 30