They all dream of those days

Journos are glass half-empty type of guys, but I recently realized, talking to my non-journo friends, that I am not alone in thinking that things are not what they used to be.

The KTX bullet train, once praised for its German-like precision, is now routinely running behind the clock. The highway gets so bumpy as it goes further away from the capital that at one moment during my driving home from Chungju, I was reminded of the Thai highway my Uber took on my way to an elephant sanctuary years ago. The jamboree fiasco can also be seen as a sign of how dire the state of provincial-level governance is in Korea.

President Yoon and the ruling party, however, have wars to wage: on whether a resistance fighter who died even before the birth of the republic is a communist—thus persona non grata. (While Yoon described himself as an avid reader of conservative thinkers like Mises and Friedman, his view on history appears to have been dictated by far-right YouTubers.) Another war, on fiscal deficit, has seen the national R&D budget cut for the first time in more than three decades, which even the Asian financial crisis couldn’t have brought about.

Yoon’s recent mini-reshuffle proves (again) that he still has no idea what to do with his fluke presidency. His pick for culture minister has little legacy other than swearing out loud to the press during his previous term in office—which happens to be under the Lee Myung-bak administration, just like many others in the current administration.

Do Yoon dream of Lee’s presidency—the last conservative administration that managed to serve its full term?

He’s not alone in dreaming of those days. Minjoo, too, is dreaming of them—the days of the US beef protest, to be precise. Japan’s decision to release the Fukushima waste water and Yoon’s response appear to draw a perfect parallel to the beef beef fifteen years ago. They went all-in: for a while, it was hard to tell Minjoo banners from those of environmental NGOs in the streets.

They all dream of those days. When the conservative appeared to be fairly competent; when the opposition could deal a blow to the administration. They all seem to live in the past.

The only exception would be Lee Jae-myung, who’s been on hunger strike for more than a fortnight. His self-described cause for the strike is too vague to be taken at face value, but he’s got a series of investigation to dodge. He’s the only one who’s living the present and the future.