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Striving for clarity in 2020

The first day of the new year is perhaps one of the most optimistic days of any year, bringing with it a host of new possibilities. “Out with the old, in with the new,” we intone.

In this age of befuddlement marked by growing confusion and mounting uncertainties, clarity has become a much-sought-after commodity. The year 2020 rings hopeful -- the very sound of “twenty-twenty” conjures up an image of acuity, sharpness, focus.

Hindsight is 20/20, it is said. But what if, in our hopeful New Year’s state of mind, we strive to achieve 20/20 in the present?

The odds seem stacked against us in the new year. There is the matter of stalled denuclearization talks between the US and North Korea. It was exactly two years ago today that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un set the ball in motion that led to denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang and a military agreement between the two Koreas, raising hopes for a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. 


The last sunrise of 2019 is seen from Yeouido, financial district of Seoul on Tuesday. Many South Koreans hope for stability on the Korean Peninsula and recovery of the sluggish economy in 2020, the first year of the new decade. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
The last sunrise of 2019 is seen from Yeouido, financial district of Seoul on Tuesday. Many South Koreans hope for stability on the Korean Peninsula and recovery of the sluggish economy in 2020, the first year of the new decade. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Today, we hear the course Kim has set for his country. It will impact not only the Korean Peninsula, but Northeast Asia and the world. In all likelihood, our diplomatic skills will be tested as we navigate among North Korea, the US and China in yet another precarious year. Seoul’s soured relations with Tokyo demand attention as well, as South Korea attempts to separate issues of history from diplomatic and economic ties. All of this demands that our government and leaders keep their eyes on the ultimate goal -- peace -- without wavering.

The National Assembly scrambled at the last minute to pass bills on election reform. It also passed bills on the establishment of an independent anti-corruption body, and bills aimed at readjusting power between the prosecution and police will be dealt with when the parliament returns to work after the New Year’s holiday, completing the legislature’s role in bringing about the long-sought prosecutorial reform. Now, we will all have to keep our eyes peeled to ensure the new system is not exploited to the advantage of one side or the other.

The voters will have a chance to have their voices heard at the April general election, which will be as much an evaluation of the conservative opposition’s performance as it will be an evaluation of the Moon Jae-in administration. Voters should be on guard against the epidemic of fake news that threatens to cloud their vision and muddle their minds. The ideological divide that drives the relentless sharing of fake news, which in turn further deepens the divide, often blinds people to different opinions or ideas.

The generational gap that divides our society should be addressed promptly. In a rapidly aging society with the lowest birthrate among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, the generational gap is perhaps inevitable.

Inevitable does not mean irreparable, however.

With so many of our young people expressing despair, frustration and anger, the older generation must open its eyes to the challenges today’s young people face.

The country should not turn a blind eye to the still unresolved tragedies of contemporary South Korea.

2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising. Questions about the brutal massacres of civilians by the military remain unanswered. An independent committee charged with investigating the democratization movement finally formed last week after 15 months of foot-dragging from the conservative opposition. It is time the truth is revealed so that true reconciliation and healing can take place. We should face history squarely in the eye in order to move on.

The 2014 Sewol ferry tragedy that claimed some 300 lives, most of them high school students, is being revisited by a special prosecution investigative unit launched in November. The tragedy that continues to this day -- the father of one of the victims killed himself a few days ago -- must be thoroughly investigated, leaving no doubt as to the veracity of the conclusions it reaches.

It is when our eyes are clear, unimpaired by prejudice or preconception, that we are able see far and wide with a sharp focus. In 2020, we should strive for clarity; the consequences of not doing so are dire. Twenty-twenty in hindsight serves little purpose than to stoke regret.

By Kim Hoo-ran(khooran@heraldcorp.com)

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