Moon Jae-in syn­drome

The Korea Times - - OPINION - Oh Young-jin Oh Young-jin (fools­[email protected], fools­[email protected] ko­re­ is dig­i­tal man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of The Korea Times.

Three lead­ers are in trou­ble for by and large a com­mon “sin” — as­sum­ing they know bet­ter than the peo­ple about what they want. Call it an at­tempt at di­rect democ­racy or elected dic­ta­tor­ship (or the be­gin­ning of it), but so far the out­come is the po­lit­i­cal equiv­a­lent to a third-de­gree burn.

The three are Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in, Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son and, of course, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. The trio is just sam­pled from the much greater pot of lead­ers try­ing their ver­sion, mean­ing it is a vir­tu­ally uni­ver­sal phe­nom­e­non. Moon pushed for the ap­point­ment of Cho Kuk, a “limou­sine lib­eral,” who has at­tacked the vices of con­ser­va­tives de­spite his well-to-do back­ground, as jus­tice min­is­ter. A flood of ac­cu­sa­tions of wrong­do­ing in­volv­ing him and his fam­ily fol­lowed, up­set­ting both con­ser­va­tives and pro­gres­sives. What trig­gered the uni­ver­sal re­sent­ment was that the ac­cu­sa­tions were the same as the con­ser­va­tive vices he had spouted ver­bal venom against.

Moon stuck to him as long as he could be­fore he ditched Cho as the short­est-serv­ing jus­tice min­is­ter af­ter weeks of mas­sive protests oc­cu­py­ing the Gwang­whamun Boule­vard just like the can­dle­light vig­ils that led to the im­peach­ment of Park Geun-hye and ush­ered Moon to power three years ago. The only dif­fer­ence was that the protests were led by con­ser­va­tives, de­mand­ing Cho be kicked out and that Moon step down.

One con­ser­va­tive fig­ure com­mented, “Re­name the Min­istry of Jus­tice as the Min­istry of Law be­cause Cho doesn’t have any­thing close to jus­tice in him,” cap­tur­ing the zeit­geist of the anti-Cho, an­tiMoon protests.

Moon ob­served about the protests, “It is a case of di­rect democ­racy, which shows a di­ver­sity of peo­ple’s wishes so it is not a bad thing.” Moon made a sim­i­lar re­mark soon af­ter he took of­fice. He be­lieves, and with good rea­son, that as the child of di­rect democ­racy he pos­sesses strong skep­ti­cism about the rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy that the par­a­lyzed Na­tional Assem­bly ex­em­pli­fies.

But the di­rec­tion of pub­lic opin­ion was not what he ex­pected, with his job ap­proval rat­ings drop­ping to their low­est. He tried to re­set the course, but the dam­age has been done: the swoon­ing op­po­si­tion had been given a new re­lease on life and was ready to pounce with a vengeance on any new sign of weak­ness in the Moon gov­ern­ment. I won­der how the Pres­i­dent feels now about di­rect democ­racy af­ter be­ing wounded by the caprices of the peo­ple’s will.

I still re­mem­ber re­ports that John­son, now Bri­tish prime min­is­ter, did not think that Brexit would pass in the June 2016 na­tional ref­er­en­dum. It passed by a paper-thin ma­jor­ity of 51.9 per­cent. David Cameron, the con­ser­va­tive prime min­is­ter at the time, re­signed for his folly of putting this del­i­cate is­sue to the crude yea-nay vote. The woman (is it a Dame?) with shoes with leop­ard prints took over af­ter Cameron but did not make it to any con­clu­sion to

Bri­tain’s fate.

It is just a com­pli­cated story as with any messy di­vorce, filled with such things as back­stop (is it back­door? Ir­ish or Scot­tish?). I once ad­mired Brits for their courage to go out of the cen­tripetal pull from the con­ti­nent and take charge of its fate, but the quag­mire the coun­try is in has made me have sec­ond thoughts (maybe, your first, old wife is your best). Now the real meat in the Brexit saga is that John­son, some­how and along the way, as­sumed that he has be­come the Or­a­cle of the peo­ple, em­bold­en­ing him to dupe old Queen El­iz­a­beth II and pro­rogue (sus­pend) Par­lia­ment.

His de­cep­tion of the Queen could have been con­sid­ered as an at­tempt at the throne and re­ceived the sever­est pos­si­ble pun­ish­ment, if the Queen were not cer­e­mo­nial. More se­ri­ous was the re­sult: a par­lia­men­tary sus­pen­sion. De­spite the Supreme Court’s rul­ing that the pro­ro­ga­tion was il­le­gal, the prime min­is­ter has stayed on. The John­son case shows that a per­son can at­tempt to act on his con­vic­tion that he rep­re­sents the peo­ple, try to stymie the ex­ist­ing sys­tem and get his way. Per­haps just as Moon got frus­trated by the good­for-noth­ing Na­tional Assem­bly, so was John­son about the paral­y­sis in the Par­lia­ment over Brexit. Can it be an ex­cuse?

U.S. Pres­i­dent Trump uses Twit­ter to send his mes­sages out, while by­pass­ing the me­dia and call­ing their re­ports fake news. He por­trays him­self as a pro­moter of or­di­nary Amer­i­cans — his “Make Amer­ica Great Again” slo­gan be­ing pop­ulist and, per­haps more im­por­tantly, an at­tempt to bring him­self in di­rect con­tact with the peo­ple. But Trump, a mil­lion­aire real es­tate de­vel­oper, has bro­ken one prece­dent af­ter an­other in pres­i­den­tial pro­to­cols start­ing with the Emol­u­ment Clause re­gard­ing pri­vate as­sets.

When he cried out dur­ing his cam­paign “Drain the swamp,” he showed his dis­dain for the Congress, first among the three equal pil­lars the so-called “found­ing fa­thers” thought of for the Amer­i­can democ­racy. The Congress is where all dif­fer­ing in­ter­ests clash with each other, sym­bol­iz­ing the po­lit­i­cal quag­mire that gets few things done. As­sum­ing that he is among the or­di­nary peo­ple and pro­motes the best of their in­ter­est, Trump has al­legedly tried to en­list the help of for­eign lead­ers to gain the in­side track in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, first from Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin in his 2016 elec­tion and now Volodymyr Ze­len­sky, Ukrainian pres­i­dent, for his re-elec­tion bid, putting him­self in the crosshairs of im­peach­ment.

Moon, John­son and Trump are pay­ing the price for their as­sump­tion that they are the power — los­ing pop­u­lar­ity, be­ing re­buked and fac­ing im­peach­ment at the hands of their coun­tries’ re­spec­tive ri­val rep­re­sen­ta­tive branches they have so de­spised. Where does this rev­e­la­tion leave them? One les­son for them is that there is the rea­son why a rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy has lasted so far — its merit for gath­er­ing di­verse branches of opin­ions into one or two big trunks to the best of the given cir­cum­stances. As­sum­ing oth­er­wise un­til a bet­ter sys­tem is found is a risky busi­ness.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Korea, Republic

© PressReader. All rights reserved.