The Korea Herald


[Kim Seong-kon] The April 2024 election will decide our future

By Korea Herald

Published : March 27, 2024 - 05:31

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People say that the future is full of “hopes.” Alexander Pushkin expresses the sentiment well in his celebrated poem, “Should This Life Sometime Deceive You”: “Our heart lives in the future, so/ What if gloom pervades the present?” (Translated by Genia Gurarie). However, foreseeing the ominous dark clouds ahead of us, we can only “hope” to survive the perfect storm awaiting us.

For an example of this “perfect storm,” take the recent prediction by experts that by 2027 China may attempt to consolidate Taiwan by force. Then, stimulated by it, nuclear-capable North Korea, too, may try to do the same to the South. In that same year, South Korea will elect a new president. Suppose he is weak and incompetent. Suppose he is obedient to North Korea and its patrons. Suppose the US does not want to interfere with conflicts in the Korean Peninsula. What, then, will happen to South Korea?

Experts are also warning that South Korea’s present situation is similar to that of 1950 when North Korea invaded the South, backed by Russia and China. Indeed, the three former Communist countries are now closer than ever before, while America’s willingness to protect and defend foreign countries from belligerent authoritarian countries is rapidly diminishing. Under the circumstances, the future of South Korea seems nebulous and precarious.

In order to prepare for the worst-case scenario, we should be alert and vigilant. If we do not realize the perilous situation, and continue our internal skirmishes, we are very likely to be doomed. Should another Korean War break out, the astonishing, miraculous economic and technological success we have accomplished amidst the world’s admiration will be gone in a flash. “Newsweek” recently reported that North Korea might use chemical weapons. In fact, North Korea might use biological weapons, too. If so, it will be equally as disastrous as nuclear weapons.

That is why the April legislative election this year is pivotal for the future of South Korea. Among other things, we should normalize the National Assembly which has been malfunctioning for the past few years. We also should urge our political leaders to prepare for the emergencies and contingencies lurking in our path. We cannot afford to waste time-fighting over petty political scandals or factional squabbles.

Unfortunately, many of our politicians’ primary concern right now is how to seize “power,” rather than caring for the future of our country. James Freeman Clarke said, “A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation.” Disappointingly, we only have politicians whose main concern is how to win the election, rather than how to build a bright future.

Carl Thomas said, “One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician's objective. Election and power are.” Mehmet Murat Ildan, too, said, “A silver-tongued charlatan and a half-wit society are made for each other! When these two come together in an election, a great disaster happens: The charlatan comes to power!” We hope that this is not the case for our country.

We should keep our future in mind when we vote, rather than a specific individual. Colin Powell advised us, “You're not just voting for an individual, in my judgment, you're voting for an agenda. You are voting for a platform. You're voting for a political philosophy.” Therefore, we should not use our vote in reprehension of the attitude and style of the political leaders we do not like. Instead, we should vote for their “political philosophy.”

Jonathan Haidt said, “People are voting for the kind of country they want to live in.” Unless we want to live in a socialist country, a sugarcoated name for a communist country after the fall of communism, we should think twice before voting for advocates for socialism. We know that socialism breeds an authoritarian, totalitarian country, in which the government controls and manipulates the people at will. Besides, we have a hostile socialist country in the North already. Why, then, do we need to turn South Korea into another socialist country?

Today, there is a sharp confrontation between the free world and authoritarian countries. Of course, South Korea belongs to the free world. If we want to remain so, we should vote for the right politicians who will steer our country in the right direction.

If we choose wisely in the April election, we can live in happiness. If not, we will end up living in regret and misery. In the 2024 National Assembly election, our choice will decide the destiny of our country. If we choose unwisely, we have to take the consequences.

It is by no means a matter of conservatism or progressivism. Rather, it is a matter of awareness or ignorance of the dire situation we are now facing. It is also a matter of our competence or incompetence in dealing with the situation. Our votes on April 10 will decide our future.

Kim Seong-kon

Kim Seong-kon is a professor emeritus of English at Seoul National University and a visiting scholar at Dartmouth College. -- Ed.