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Toward integration

Jan 01,2020
Last year, Korea suffered unprecedented conflict and division. The progressives and the conservatives were engaged in heated battles on almost all issues. The public was sharply split between those who supported former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and those who backed Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, who was trying to get to the bottom of corruption involving Cho’s family and his alleged abuse of power as senior presidential secretary for civil affairs in the Blue House.

On Monday, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) passed a bill aimed at creating a monstrous extra law enforcement body after outmaneuvering the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP). With a critical lack of cooperation with opposition parties, the National Assembly has repeatedly turned into a theater for dirty political dramas.

Will the ruling party do any better this year? Our economy is in a serious state. It could hardly achieve 2 percent growth, bringing it as low as in the aftermath of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis and the 2007-08 global financial meltdown. There was an abysmal slump in investment and consumption — and skyrocketing real estate prices despite a plethora of government measures to tame them. In addition, the country still faces the North Korean nuclear threat. Despite the liberal Moon Jae-in administration’s unrivaled generosity toward the recalcitrant state, Pyongyang threatened to take a “new path” after the collapse of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s Hanoi, Vietnam, summit with U.S. President Donald Trump last February.

The general election scheduled for April 15 will certainly split the public even further. When the economy plunges and external risks grow, national integration is needed most. If the nation is stuck in a swamp of division, it cannot move an inch forward. Moon must take a path toward unity, as he pledged in his inauguration speech on May 10, 2017, in which he said, “Today will be remembered as the beginning of genuine national integration.” But his vow proved empty as he only cared for his supporters and not his opponents.

Presiding over a Blue House meeting on Monday, Moon denounced the LKP for “showing its shameful face to the people.” But we wonder how he can say that after conniving with the DP to railroad the bill on establishing a special law enforcement agency. Does he really have cooperation with opposition parties in mind?

Former President Kim Dae-jung stressed the importance of integration. Former President Roh Moo-hyun was no exception. His lifetime dream was to “overcome regionalism and achieve national integration.” Moon must follow in their footsteps by listening to voices of opponents. Instead of sticking with his ill-conceived “income-led growth” policies, he must change course. On North Korea, he must squarely face reality through a cool-headed approach after ending his one-sided love affair with the North.

In his book, Moon urged the people to move toward an era of harmony after ending the era of hatred. We hope he returns to those sentiments as integration is not a dirty word.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 1, Page 26