My latest letter to the Joong Ang Daily:
To the Editor:
At a recent lecture in Osan, the Buddhist monk and liberal activist Venerable Pomnyun suggested that the solution to Korea’s acrimonious political climate lies in a new political party. (“New Political Force Needed: Monk,” 22 November, 2011)
What the nation will gain by adding yet another faction to the political fray is not clear. After all, one doesn’t break up a dogfight by tossing one more pit bull into the ring. Far from needing more political parties and politicians, then, Korea desperately needs less politics.
Because politics, unlike most aspects of our lives, is a zero-sum affair where the minority must live with the decisions of the majority, virtually any decision made in this arena will incite the ire of one group who fears being trampled by a slightly larger group.
Consider the debate over the KORUS FTA: if the issue of trade were removed from the political arena, individuals would be free to decide whether to trade internationally or to keep their commerce within the local community. When put to a political vote, however, we see brawls in the National Assembly and endless partisan bickering as politicians attempt to decide what is right for everyone.
The Venerable Pomnyun may fancy himself a transcendent political figure, able to soothe souls and unify the masses. Unfortunately, even when a revered Buddhist monk is involved, the use of political channels, though occasionally inevitable, always tends to strain the delicate threads that hold society together
Center for Free Enterprise, Seoul
Update: The Joong Ang published an abbreviated version of the letter on 25 November, 2011.