Generations At Odds
Generations At Odds
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2004.04.26 00:00
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The appropriate phrase to describe Korea? political situation today would be ? war between generations. What generations? It is difficult to pin down the two major groups at each others throats, but a division would generally refer to the ?ro-Roh and the ?nti-Roh political parties. Generally speaking, the main factor for today? political polarization is the division of opinion among age groups, that is, the ?ounger and ?lder generations. Although there are many young people who are not pro-Roh, as one might presume, and in some cases vice-versa, the divide is roughly made between those who were born before or around the time of the Korean War, and those who were born later, in the barely ?emocratic Korea, under the rule of the first few elected presidents.
The Korean War plays such an important role in the political party division mainly because those who have experienced the war and those who have not share exceedingly different views on the direction in which relations with North Korea should go, and consequently, most of all other current issues worth debating, which are unavoidably related to questions concerning North Korea. Specifically, for Koreans who remember the war, North Korea is an imminent danger, and the alliance with the United States is essential. Meanwhile, the post-war generations support reconciliation with North Korea and champion a more Washington-free foreign policy, which is exactly what Roh espouses in his administration? policies. The latter political faction consists mainly of those who struggled in student demonstrations in the decades after the war, in opposition to dictatorship.
The two mainstream political parties (the pre and post-war generations, i.e. the anti-Roh and pro-Roh generations) have, as expected, contrasting opinions on President Roh: Supporters of Roh refer to him as the first true reform-centered president, a man able to wipe out old order and corruption. On the other hand, detractors call him unprofessional, arrogant, and careless in his speeches, incapable of running Korea, and alienating the United States while embracing North Korea.
Up until the recent National Assembly? decision to impeach President Roh, it was unclear whether the pre or post-war generations would end up with a majority of the 273 seats that will be up for grabs at the 17th National Assembly Elections, to be held on April 15. Voter opinions, of course, can easily shift. Yet as of March 16, exactly thirty days before the National Assembly Elections, and four days after Roh? impeachment, statistics show that seven out of ten South Koreans believe the impeachment was wrong--the impeachment carried out by the Grand National Party (GNP) and Millennium Democratic Party (MDP), the opposition to the Roh-centered Uri Party. Not all the citizens who voted against the GNP and MDP? decision were for the Uri Party. Not all of them are pro-Roh nor do they belong to the post-war generations. But they have shown collective opposition against the unexpected ruling made by the current National Assembly.
The questions is, in light of the fast growth of the opposition to the GNP and MDP, will the Uri Party be the one to seize the ruling power in the National Assembly, and what would happen if they did? Aside from the widely opposed impeachment ruling, those who were selected during the 16th National Assembly Elections did not quite live up to the standards that citizens had demanded and expected, in spite of their initial reformative streak.
The so-called 386 generation of politicians (the afore-mentioned post-war politicians), which consist most of the Uri Party, champion reform and progress. However, it is yet to be determined whether or not these young politicians are capable of retaining a character suitable to do the job.
The characteristics a politician would need in the 21st century are professionalism and the discernment in analyzing world affairs. If the 20th century stood for ?acro politics, the 21st century will stand for ?icro politics, that is, politics related to issues such as feminism, environment, peace, antinuclear issues, etc. In other words, pluralism will become more and more important and citizens will have to be afforded priority so that they can properly execute their roles in policy-making processes. What we need then are politicians who know how to involve citizens in the policy-making process.
It is said that ?hose who know when to leave, leave gracefully. Politicians always need poise and grace more than anything else. They must establish their credibility in performing their political roles and the citizens must know how to make them do so. If not, the war of the generations will lead to the exchanged generations of politicians.

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