In the midst of the noxious political strife, polluting and choking the fresh air of democracy out of our lives, and the protests clogging up the streets and roads, you may find yourself wondering how it all ended up like this. The scandal that has shattered Korea’s fragile trust in the government continues to unfold, turning and twisting with no end in sight. The ineffective and inept president seems to have no idea on what to do without her shaman guiding her. Conspiracy theories endlessly flow out through the media, and it is clear that the public is confused as to what and whom to believe anymore. I can only hope that by the end of this year, I will be able to stop reading and writing about ‘Choi Soon-sil Gate’. But where is hope getting us these days?
The angry citizens who shout, scream, and decry the government by night are regular employees by day; they have a hard time getting up in the morning like everyone else — setting at least three alarms and snoozing for an extra ten minutes before slowly rolling off the bed — and they shave, get dressed, and miss breakfast in order to cram themselves into the tightly-packed subway on the way to work. They stand sandwiched between others and stand there in silence. They all look the same, have the same clothes, and stand there in the tens of hundreds of thousands, like robots marching through their daily routine. After the sun sets and their shifts are over, they come home to their wives while their kids are out studying. They prepare to go out to join the rally but then they get a message that there will be none that night. So they turn on the news and wait. They wait for the change that was promised; the transparency and justice they have been rallying for the past month. And they hear on the news that the protest movement is over, and that the government has promised to enact sweeping changes and root out corruption once and for all. They look at one another and hesitantly agree that they did the best they could. They pat themselves on the back, and move on. The Samsung employee, the bus driver, the social worker, the mother, the doctor, the teacher, the student — they all move on. Society moves on, and the wheel turns.
This cycle in society — scandal, protests, then hope — has gotten too repetitive. Every president of Korea in recent memory has undergone this process. A scandal breaks out, people take to the streets in protest, and in response, an investigation is conducted, a few unlucky people get arrested in much fanfare, the next spoke turns into place and the cycle repeats. The only difference that I can see with this particular scandal is that it is the second major issue that has rocked this administration, the first one being the Sewol ferry tragedy caused by a ridiculous episode of mismanagement.
To echo the sentiment of Queen Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, we must step out of our delusions and stop the wheel as it turns, one spoke at a time, one corrupt administration at a time, crushing society beneath it. But the dream of breaking the wheel cannot be achieved alone. It must be done as a society, with our interest, our involvement, our voice, our youth, our democracy, and our vote.