Thoughts of the Times; Political Engineering of Regionalism

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), March 26, 2000 | Go to article overview

Thoughts of the Times; Political Engineering of Regionalism


Having witnessed the foreshadowing of political regionalism, having examined the rise and slow fall of the political system, and having looked at how all politicians have changed the country for the better in past times of crisis, we are now ready to doubt the potential of the political parties to make a better country. In other words, the basic architecture of the current political debacle must be unsustainable; new thinking is needed. If we want to continue our progress, it is a replacement, not another upgrade that is needed. In this context, I have a feeling that the civic group's strenuous movement of breaking out regionalism is producing some ``heroes'' who are likely to be the members of a certain party but whose vision certainly transcend partisanship. However, I am convinced that we should pause for a moment to recognize both their sacrifices and achievements on the one hand. And I believe strongly that the voices of the civic groups are verified enough to spawn a moral as well as political revolution in Korea?a revolution that should sweep away decades of institutionalized practice.

In this regard, I take it for granted that those who have sweetened the pot of regionalism should be, at least this time, rooted out to the ground. The avatars of regionalism are Kyongsang and Cholla provinces. As we are well aware, regionalism has become the preoccupation of our time. Although people have continually set out to overturn chronic regionalism, they ultimately reinforced it. Furthermore, it seems to me that media coverage today tends to concentrate on the extraordinary anger from the ''failed'' Kyongsang provinces that feel they are being held back because of the current regime's biased regionalism.

These feelings mirror exactly, but in reverse, the feelings of people from Kyongsang provinces who believe that many government officials from Cholla provinces are promoted primarily because they are from that region. It is as if we have climbed up the hill and without noticing, have begun to slide down the other side. Reading through contemporary political literature, one would have to conclude that repressed ill will is turning the nation into a powder keg. And, increasingly, it is set to explode. Overt statements of, ``You were not promoted because of prejudice toward a certain region,'' are also rare, but the deep regional antagonism that has always characterized campaigning obviously exists. Put simply, bigoted regionalism has, indeed, become an obsession and its rule of thumb is that only a fool says what he really believes, since many people cannot talk to anyone in a natural way.

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