Politics of Betrayal Gives Rise to Populism

“Post-truth” refers to a political campaign that appeals to voters’ emotions. In particular, this adjective is used in situations where voters are affected by the opposite of truth. The word was selected as 2016’s international word of the year by the U.K.’s Oxford Dictionary, a choice that reflects populism’s sweep across the world, as evidenced by an outsider’s unexpected victory in the recent U.S. presidential election, preceded by the Brexit decision in June.

During the campaign, President-elect Donald Trump claimed he would bring jobs back to America’s working class, while declaring the return of protectionism with an “America First” slogan, but his populist policies are raising serious concerns both in and outside the U.S. In fact, he threatened and then placated the air-conditioner company, Carrier, so as to discourage its plan to move one of its plants from the U.S. to Mexico. Even American companies are unhappy with Trump’s policies, and economists insist the policies are destined to fail as they go against the true nature of corporations, which is to maximize profit while minimizing costs. In other words, they are accusing Trump of misleading workers with deceitful policies.

As a matter of fact, populism had already landed in Europe ahead of its arrival in the U.S., and it has been rapidly shaking up the political geography of the region. Syriza, led by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, is a typical populist party, which won the Greek general election in a troubled economy. It was also a far-right populist party, the Five Star Movement, that led opposition to Italian constitutional reforms and drove former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi out of office. In addition, Norbert Hofer, who narrowly lost the Austrian presidential runoff on Dec. 5, 2016, is a member of the right-wing Freedom Party, and the 2017 French presidential elections, scheduled for April 2017, are already largely expected to boil down to a duel between the far-right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, and François Fillon, the nominee for the center-right French Republican party, who represents the old politics.

Is the rise of populism in the U.S. and Europe just a “bad choice” the public was lured into by right-wing political parties with post-truth slogans? Writing a comment article in The Guardian, world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking recently told the hard truth about world politics. In his article, he defined both the vote for Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the recent U.S. presidential election as “a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.” In addition, Professor Hawking warned of the danger of treating these strong showings of the far-right merely as “crude populism.” He argued that it “would be a terrible mistake” to “attempt to circumvent or circumscribe the choices that they represent.”

It is a “feeling of betrayal” that is giving way to the surge of populist parties; once accused of false and offensive claims, these parties are now gaining enough strength to be a threat to the old political system. The American working class, who had expected to see a trickle-down effect, are outraged by the increasing inequality. The southern European countries that joined the eurozone (a monetary union of 19 countries that use the euro as their common currency) in pursuit of the vision of “one economy” benefiting all its member countries, ended up in despair, realizing the fruit of integration only grows in certain nations. Though the old politics blame the public for falling for populism and betraying them, it was them, in retrospect, who abandoned the people, only to let them turn away from the old system.

The day has come: the future of South Korea will be determined today. The Korean people will hold their breath while they wait to see the decision made by the 300 members of the Korean Parliament. What is clear is that today’s impeachment vote against President Park will be not the end but the beginning of a new journey, regardless of the result of the vote. President Park is not the only reason more than 2 million Korean people have held candles. Their protests are a warning against the “politics of betrayal,” as well as an outburst of frustration and anger over a depressing reality: the politics were supposed to give hope, but they failed a Korean people who have lived life to the full with expectations for a better future for the next generation. If Korean political circles are driven solely by self-interest and simply repeat the status quo after the impeachment vote, there is no guarantee they will not follow in the footsteps of European conventional parties, which brought a fall on themselves by betraying their people.

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