His name was on the lips of everyone I talked with in South Korea last week. As an underdog with little name recognition but a long history of progressive organizing, he came from behind late last month to become the new mayor of Seoul.I don't mind the social welfare issues (I'm in public health, after all), as long as this Seoul homeowner's properly doesn't get jealously eyed as not part of the ninety-nine percent. My main concern, and it's probably not shared by Mr Feffer, is that (especially if there are implications for US-ROK relations) groups associated with groups associated with Mr Park are chinboista in origin or orientation, entities that at best are terribly naïve about North Korean policies or at worst complicit in their plans.
Remember his name. Park Won Soon is perhaps the first politician to win with an Occupy Wall Street platform.
A founder of the watchdog organization People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), Park has been a key leader in Korea's vibrant civil society. After a couple decades as a political gadfly, he is now in a seat of considerable power. And people are talking about him not only for the positions he staked out as an independent candidate, which focused on social welfare issues, but for the potential of his victory to transform Korean politics in 2012. The implications for South Korea's relations with the North, with its other neighbors, and with the United States are enormous.
Democracy needs to figure out how to pay for all the stuff it wants, but doesn't want to pay for. Otherwise, we'll have crisis in leadership and economics like what Italy is going through right now, what we went through via the game of legislative chicken with the debt ceiling and what we may go though again when the so-called "Supercommittee" implodes.ReplyDelete
Democracy, like capitalism, lead to (drift toward?) a natural state of excess that needs to be checked sometimes. With democracy, there might be a tendency to vote for people (or for things, in the case of local ballot initiatives) that others will pay for. With capitalism, the competitive edge that allows a corporation to succeed might be in the form of political influence (i.e., crony capitalism).ReplyDelete
That said, I think it is possible to find that balance, though it constantly needs to be tweaked. In fact, I think we in the US were close to it during the Clinton administration, when we still had a pretty good social safety net but we had budget surpluses and saw the end of the national debt on the horizon.
It was not the excesses of social wants that killed us after that. It was tax cuts for the rich and an expensive unnecessary war, plus a botched other war that got more expensive as a result.
Korea is actually pretty close to it, too. Budget deficits are reasonably kept in check yet there is something of a reasonable social safety net plus lots of people-oriented infrastructure. I don't know if the new mayor will be a plus or a minus in this regard.