FT, 한국인들 국가를 실제 괴물로 여겨...

Posted in Life // Posted at 2010.04.02 01:47

FT, MB정부-국민 소통 부재 집중 지적

South Koreans see state as the real monster


By Christian Oliver in Seoul
Published: March 31 2010 23:01 | Last updated: March 31 2010 23:01

When South Koreans flocked to see The Host – the 2006 hit film, ostensibly about a killer monster terrorising the banks of the river Han in Seoul, – part of the appeal came from a more tangible fear.

 

The story’s real villain is the heavy-handed South Korean state itself, which bewilders and misleads frightened, grieving people. Families recovering from the monster’s first rampage are herded up without explanation by authorities in biological-warfare suits. Throughout the drama, angry people get no help or answers from the state.


The sinister state in the film is a pastiche and real South Korea has made huge strides since military dictatorship ended. However, its 22-year-old democracy still struggles to build trust between the government and the people. The past few days have been a perfect example.

 

Last week’s mysterious sinking of a South Korean warship, in which 46 sailors are feared dead, has left Seoul taken aback by the visceral rage of distraught families. While some parents questioned the seaworthiness of the ship, the touch-paper was lit by the way the families felt they were treated. They have sobbed, screamed and fainted, lamenting a lack of communication from the government and complained that the armed forces treated them like a troublesome enemy.

 

One can sympathise with the government. In cold, choppy waters with dismal visibility, both rescue work, suspended on Wednesday because of bad weather, and determining the cause of the sinking are extremely difficult. South Korea is also a world apart from Russia, which stood ready to sedate furious parents with hypodermic syringes after the Kursk submarine sank in 2000. However, the families have identified two areas where Seoul continually shoots itself in the foot: appalling communication and the instincts of military autocracy reappearing at just the wrong moments.

 

When Roh Moo-hyun, the previous president, committed suicide last year, the government feared a repeat of 2008’s massive street protests over the import! of US beef and packed Seoul with tens of thousands of riot police. It was an inflammatory message: we do not trust the people. Sadness quickly turned to anger. The reason why South Koreans get so furious and readily suspect cover-ups has much to do with the way information is relayed. At present, the state and its top conglomerates, the chaebol, largely spoon-feed information to uncritical television and newspapers, forcing the discussion of less palatable issues into Korea’s cyberspace.

 

South Korea still blocks access to North Korean websites and even Pyongyang’s histrionic state news agency, which makes more of a mockery of the regime than Seoul ever could. Ironically, democratic South Koreans cannot be trusted to make up their own minds about the autocratic North.

 

It is telling that a current bestselling book was written by a whistle-blowing former chief lawyer from Samsung Electronics, who alleged corruption involving the world’s biggest technology company and state officials. South Koreans yearn to read these stories but the papers, whose advertising revenue is controlled by the chaebol, have refused to review or advertise the book.

 

This tarnishes the government’s credibility. Lee Myung-bak, the conservative president and a former boss of chaebol Hyundai’s construction unit, last year pardoned Samsung’s chairman after he was convicted of serious financial crimes. Lesser mortals grumble that they would go to jail for less.

 

This scepticism about the government and mainstream media has made the web the main forum for dissent and co-ordinating protests. The whistle-blower’s book on Samsung got most of its publicity through Twitter.

 

Feeling vulnerable about this public anger growing on the web, the government’s reflex is to take the battle to the cybernauts, even arresting the country’s most celebrated financial blogger last year. The supreme challenge for Korean democracy is to steer the cathartic debate on corruption and corporate governance away from angry tweeters and into the mainstream.

 

Until that happens, South Korea will remain an explosively polarised democracy. And the authorities will continue to be blindsided by tortuous conspiracy theories and spectacular outbursts of rage from the masses it refuses to trust.

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