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The clock is ticking

Nov 06,2019
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Kwon Suk-chun
The author is an editorial writer at the JoongAng Ilbo.

“Is this how a political party works?” a reporter covering the ruling Democratic Party (DP) asked.

“Just consider yourself a reporter covering a religion,” answered another.

Reporters covering the ruling party said DP lawmakers asked for their trust on Justice Minister Cho Kuk after he was nominated. I could hardly believe this when I heard it. When another reporter told me a similar tale, I thought that maybe a few DP lawmakers were behaving that way.

After I saw the media event of DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan last week, I realized that this was a problem affecting the entire party. “I have paid attention to every single opinion expressed by lawmakers and the people,” Lee said. “Because the DP was too focused on the greater cause of the prosecutorial reform, we failed to deeply consider the relative sense of deprivation and despair felt by the people, particularly youngsters, toward unfairness.”

Language always has its clues. The phrase “relative sense of deprivation” proves that Lee and the rest of the DP lawmakers are not facing reality. The failure of the DP was not caused by any relative sense of deprivation among youngsters. The failure was the fact that the ruling party actually encouraged Moon to appoint Cho as justice minister. When Lee said the party failed to “deeply consider” the public’s frustration, his perception — from the top looking down — can be felt.

The National Assembly held an audit of the Blue House on Friday. “Anyhow, when you come down to it, that was what happened,” said Presidential Chief of Staff Noh Young-min when an opposition lawmaker asked if the appointment of Cho was a failure. After he was repeatedly attacked, Noh reiterated that “it ended up like this.” What does he mean? Noh explained that “different from our intention, it ended up with this outcome afterwards.”

The audit ended up in a mess after Senior Presidential Secretary for Political Affairs Kang Ki-jung yelled at an opposition lawmaker who demanded an answer from National Security Director Chung Eui-yong about our preparedness for North Korean missile attacks.

An apology that is not expressed with accurate words is not an apology. Both Lee and Noh issued apologies about the Cho Kuk crisis, but they did not say what they did wrong. No one wants an apology that is peppered with qualifications such as “relatively” or “eventually.” If they truly felt heavy responsibility and repented, how could they possibly issue such hedged apologies and make such wishy-washy responses?

No one is always right or always wrong. We confirmed that in the latest crisis. But the DP and the Blue House can not shake the idea that they are morally superior and they must unite to win in the end. They even put the blame on “the system” for a failure that is obviously personal. Although they emphasize the importance of the system so much, they still say that an individual — Cho — is a must to reform the prosecution and another individual — Lee — is a must to win the general election next April.

The Park Geun-hye administration collapsed not because it committed wrongdoings, but because it never admitted to its wrongdoings. As long as a government looks back on its past and honestly confesses to the people its mistakes and wrongdoings, it will never fall.

“I went to the candlelight vigils in the winter of 2016 because I wanted a government that admits to its wrongdoing,” said an office worker in his 30s. “When I see senior officials who do not want to admit their mistakes, I just feel they are so cheap.”

It is truly a shame that the Moon administration is so trapped in narrow-minded familism. No doubt the prosecution should be reformed, and the media must change. To realize those demands in our time, ruling party lawmakers must truly reflect on — and reform — themselves. Only then can they persuade civic society that bigger changes are needed.

How much further will they drift while only paying attention to the approval ratings of the president? It is fake progressivism if they demand others change when they themselves won’t. When you admit to your failures and advance forward, that is true progressivism. The clock is ticking.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 5, Page 30