Justice Minister Nominee Debacle Is an Eye-Opener for the Deluded

  • By Chosun Ilbo columnist Yang Sang-hoon

    September 05, 2019 14:16

    Yang Sang-hoon

    Many people are angry about the revelations of nepotism and other unethical conduct by justice minister-nominee Cho Kuk. But this sordid affair may actually be a blessing in disguise. Cho has done an excellent job of revealing just how tarnished the former democracy activists, who wielded tremendous political power over the last two decades, have become. And it is thanks to Cho that we now know what kind of man President Moon Jae-in really is. Of course there are countless officials associated with the Moon administration who have been like pots calling the kettle black, but Cho tops them all.

    Cho comes from a privileged background in the affluent Gangnam area of southern Seoul and had until recently been the squeaky-clean poster boy for the leftwing reforms pursued by the Moon administration. He was also a rare example of a champagne socialist in a country where most people vote according to their wallet. But these heroes of democracy have judged their conservative rivals by monstrous double standards. They are good and the enemy evil. Now all that has been exposed as a sham.

    Cho has turned out to be just as corrupt as the conservative bogeymen fingered by his ilk. They benefited just as much from the economic miracle forced through by dictators Syngman Rhee and Park Chung-hee, and yet they never tire of wanting to expunge their legacy. While they hurl insults at the rich, these one-time radicals go just as far when it comes to making a quick buck or taking advantage of their status to wrangle preferment for their children. Many of them park their cars in their expensive Gangnam apartments after work and drape themselves in vulgar luxury labels.

    One former leftwing activist in his 60s who spent his entire life demonstrating for the rights of the disadvantage said, "These champagne socialists who live in Gangnam make me want to puke whenever I hear them preach."

    But for Cho, that sordid hypocrisy would never have been so glaringly exposed. Prominent leftwing figures and activists who are practically idolized by young Koreans, have all rallied in support of Cho, despite the explosive revelations. On all sides, allies put their connections before morals.

    Cho has changed the views of liberal young Koreans, who are commonly drawn to leftwing ideologies. But in Korea, which suffered under many years of military dictatorship, former democracy activists are especially revered. To be sure, many remain devoted to their old ideals and the common good, but it is only now becoming clear how many are not.

    Supporters of former President Roh Moo-hyun and his protégé Moon Jae-in have blatantly manipulated public opinion online, as the case of power blogger Druking has shown. But the public was still prepared to see that as a regrettable aberration.

    But Moon's single-minded determination to appoint Cho as his justice minister has finally broken the spell. One former pro-North-Korean student activist has accused Moon of "ideological aggression," incapable of seeing the other side of any argument. Perhaps this unfortunate incident will have a happy ending after all.

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