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Korea is a dynamic country

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By Lee Hyon-soo

In the golden age of Asia
Korea was one of its lamp-bearers.
And that lamp is waiting to be lit once again
For illumination in the East.

The above poem was written by Rabindranath Tagore in 1929. Lo and behold, that lamp has been lit and it illuminates not only Asia but also the whole world.

K-pop has taken the world by storm and it is a popular global phenomenon now. K-drama is also popular in many countries and Korean cinema is critically acclaimed internationally. To enjoy such cultural content, a multitude of people in many parts of the world are learning the Korean language.

What's more, Korea has a rags-to-riches story that fascinates people around the world. Korea's economy was a basket case over half a century ago, but it is now the world's 10th-largest economy as well as the seventh-biggest exporter and ninth-biggest importer.

Also, Korea has a competitive edge in the production of semiconductors, cell phones, cars, electric batteries, ships, television sets and other electronic goods. Many Korean companies such as Samsung, Hyundai and LG are household names worldwide.

Korean politics, too, is worthy of mention, as the country has made remarkable progress over the years to have a more democratic political system. Presidential, parliamentary and local elections have been held at regular intervals and political power has been peacefully transferred back and forth between the two main parties.

K-politics is anybody's guess; it works in mysterious ways. Take the two recent elections for instance. The results of these elections took not only Koreans but also foreign Korea watchers by surprise ― twice.

The former government led by President Moon Jae-in governed the country for five years. Yet, some policies that it pursued did not achieve their desired results. So Korean voters wanted a change of administration, and some had anticipated that the candidate of the People Power Party would defeat his opponent easily. It, therefore, came as a surprise to some that the margin by which he won the election was very small.

About three months later, on June 1, a local election was held and Korean voters gave the People Power Party a landslide victory. It came as a second surprise to some that the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) lost the local election by a bigger margin than they did in the presidential election. Why did this happen? Although there may be a variety of reasons, I think the course of action they took after the presidential election cemented their fate in large measure. Let me elaborate.

After the DPK lost the presidential election by a narrow margin, they did not take their defeat seriously. Instead of planning to win the voters back at the forthcoming local election, they hastened to pass prosecution reform laws ― which some believe were designed to protect their leaders as they could have been investigated and prosecuted under various allegations.

With this hidden agenda in mind, they came up with the prosecution reform bills aimed at weakening public prosecutors' powers to investigate. According to a Realmeter poll on April 13, 38.2 percent of respondents supported the reform, and 52.1 percent opposed it, but, as they held the majority, the DPK passed the bills through the National Assembly.

They thought they could get away with what they did, but their misguided intentions and arrogance seem to have turned many voters off. It is no wonder then that the DPK was defeated soundly at the local election. This episode demonstrates what happens if politicians go against the wishes of the voters.

Indeed, Korea is a dynamic country ― culturally, economically and politically.


The writer (tomhslee43@gmail.com) is a freelance columnist and the author of "Tales of a Korean Globetrotter."






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