Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Seoul free school lunch referendum (continued)

Confirming a clear political divide over a more than symbolic issue, The Hankyoreh, Korea's main liberal daily newspaper, wants to "End Mayor Oh's free school lunch referendum".

I've already mentioned this debate*, but I'll make my position even clearer at a personal level :

- I think Seoul's Mayor is right to promote a welfare society over welfare populism, and that's truly what this free school lunch issue is all about. No : free lunch for all is no more sustainable than free healthcare for all. And yes : it is fair for the wealthiest to pay for the poorest. That's the way welfare states usually work, and in France, the ones favoring that concept over free school lunches are more often liberal than conservative leaning. I'm not sure the conservative groups that collected signatures for the referendum** are aware of that evidence (ditto for the liberal lobbies denouncing the motion as unjust).

- I don't think Oh Se-hoon is helping his case by pushing at the same time for
more controversial projects, and I'm glad some of them didn't make the cut under the new municipal majority***.

- I'm not in favor of a referendum, but it seems the only way to make a necessary change. Very risky for OH (presidential future at stake), this vote is more the consequence of a sterile war within the City Council. I agree with The Hankyoreh about the "national governance" issue, but no debate seems possible here, and the same can be said at the national level. This is not a us-vs-them, black-and-white world, and politicians should be able to support a cause they deem just, even if it comes from the other side, or denounce a bad project even if it's the dream of a leader they respect. Beyond school systems, Korean politics need to change.

- I was pleased to see both OH Se-hoon re-elected as Seoul Mayor and KWAK No-hyun elected as Seoul Education Superintendent because both sides were represented. But I did wish for a better mutual understanding, leveraging on common ground and values across party lines****.

- The whole situation is absurd. What Korea needs is a better coverage for healthcare and a fairer educational system, challenges for which I'm sure OH and KWAK can fight on the same side. Ideally, both parties should convene and find a solution before the referendum, but if it were to be staged, people in favor of social justice, regardless of their political color, should vote against free school lunches for all.

Seoul Village 2011
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* see "
Seoul-Incheon canal"
** BTW after checking, the final count of signatures appears closer to the minima required, which explains why so many where gathered in the first place (petitions are rarely reliable)
*** see "
The fastuous and the furious : trimming down Seoul city's most embarrassing projects"
**** see "
Oh Se-hoon 2.0"

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