Moon Jae-in

I came back to writing faster than I had expected. Not because I have resolved everything, but because I had more or less calmed down and am now attempting to get my life back to normal. I probably will not be able to write as consistently as I did, but I will continue doing what I can as I try to manage my life. Thank you for your continual support.

Moon Jae-in was the 12th President of South Korea from 2017 to 2022. Born to North Korean refugees who fled to the South, Moon Jae-in grew up in debt and poverty. Despite this, he topped his class in high school, was accepted into university to study law with full scholarship. However, he organised a student protest and was later expelled. In fact, he was sent to prison twice.

Many know Vladimir Putin to be one of the toughest leaders of the world, having past experience in the KGB, the main security agency for the Soviet Union. Putin later served as director of the FSB, the successor of KGB in Russia when the Soviet Union was no more. Putin’s tough guy impression mostly came from his military experience, which few other notable politicians have. But not many knew that Moon Jae-in actually served in the South Korean Special Forces and took part in Operation Paul Bunyan, though not in a main role.

Moon later worked under his mentor, Roh Moo-hyun, as a lawyer. Roh would later become South Korea’s president from 2003 to 2008. At Roh’s insistence, Moon became Roh’s campaign manager during his presidential bid and moved on to important roles during Roh’s presidency. However, Moon was not the type to like politics and would often shun the spotlight. In fact, he quit that high-level job people could only dream about and went hiking in the Himalayas.

I will cut this paragraph short. Roh was later falsely accused of corruption, and his aides as well as family members were targeted mercilessly, to the point where Roh would end up jumping off the cliff to prove his innocence by suicide. It was Roh’s suicide that pushed Moon to step into politics to become the country’s top leader – the President.

In a corrupted country like South Korea, the chaebols hold immense influence as they wield big financial clout and considerable powers in society, business, economics and politics. You can think of them like the oligarchs in Russia. Just like Bernie Sanders who wanted to target the big corporations after becoming President, but sadly did not manage to do so, Moon went after the chaebols. He limited the chaebols power by revising the commercial laws. He sent Lee Jae Yong, heir and leader of the country’s biggest company, Samsung, into prison for his role in bribery and embezzlement among other things. He forced Samsung to pay more than US$10 billion in inheritance taxes, which many chaebols avoid by slowly transferring stakes to their heirs over the course of many years.

When we read it like that, it seems to be nothing. But if you carefully consider the impact, what Moon did was dangerous stuff. South Korea’s presidents can only serve for 5 years with no possibility of re-election, but these chaebols will be there to stay. These are the people at the top of a network so big, powerful and corrupt that they can treat a president like a puppet, as they did with Moon’s predecessor, Park Geun-hye. Moon had only 5 years and a few trusted aides against the entire system.

The South Korean entertainment industry is also known to be ruthless, with the female celebrities being treated as commodities and prostituted to a bunch of rich and powerful people. For example, in 2009, actress Jang Ja-yeon committed suicide and left a 7-page note listing at least 31 names she was forced into having sex with. Despite the abuse she suffered, such as frequent beatings, being forced to take drugs and forced to undergo a tubal ligation operation (sterilisation) so she can entertain the clients better, the South Korean police suppressed it. In 2019, Moon ordered a thorough re-investigation into this matter as well as a proper investigation into the Burning Sun scandal, where Big Bang’s Seungri was involved in the prostitution and rape business.

Moon flipped the tables on an existing system, disturbing the finances and reputation of the rich and powerful. He probably knew what was waiting for him at the end of his term. In fact, before he stepped down, Seoul’s mayor Park Won-soon was accused of sexual harassment and committed suicide. He was supposed to be Moon’s successor.

There are many other things which Moon did for the people, which I will not mention here because it is easily searchable on the internet. On the international level, he turned down US’ push for further military deployment and went for peace talks with North Korea. However, one notable thing to take away: In his quest to make the country a better place, domestically and internationally, he went against what the powers who sacrificed all others for their own benefits.

In stories and fairytales, we always hear about a hero fighting alone against an army of evil, and after going through many trials and battles, finally emerging as the one who brought justice to the world. Unfortunately, life does not work that way. Reality does not contain fairytales.

After the current South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol took over, he launched an investigation against Moon and his aides, chopping off as many as he can. It will be no surprise if Moon is sent into prison after investigations are complete.

The path to the top is often filled with blood and dirt. Every politician promises to make life better for the people, but few carried them out, much less with such intensity. It is difficult to keep oneself clean on the way up, and much harder to maintain one’s principle in the face of overwhelming power to do the right thing.

Being like Moon is respectable and admirable. But it is not an intelligent decision to want to be like him. Good guys die first and they die fast. As a human, we should strive to be like him. But the cost of that attitude, of going into such an extreme, will not only harm you but your families and friends as well.

Justice always wins, because the winners decide what is justice. We love heroes as children, but we grow up to know that the real heroes are often unappreciated, lonely and ultimately sacrificed. As a fellow human, I will tell you to aspire to be like him. But when considering reality, before trying to become a hero, know what are the consequences.

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- Resources Price
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