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[OUTLOOK]A correct place and job for us all

Jan 16,2003
A person is at his best when he is in the place he should be and doing the work he should be doing.

As precious as my place and work are to me, so is someone else's place and work to that person. When everyone is doing his job, it creates a harmony that makes a better world. On the other hand, there are those who are more interested in someone else's place and work instead of their own. To these people, it is always someone else's fault when there is something wrong with society and the only way to set things right is if they take that someone's place instead. Such differences in perspectives on society lead either to integration and harmony or conflict and contention.

Elections are a way to distribute the responsibility of the government. Yet for some time Koreans have thought that an election winner could control the places and jobs of others in society. We have come to think of it as natural that one can rule over the place and position of others.

Aren't these reform programs coming after the elections merely ways to interfere in other people's places and roles under the pretense of reform?

One of the new government's characteristics is the participation of civic activists in politics. The president-elect said that civic groups stand in the center of leadership in our society and the reforms that the new government is planning are also expected to be led by these movements. Is it, however, desirable that so many people in this specific category be appointed by the government? I fear not. Everyone has his own role in society. Civic movement leaders have their role. Would they be able to cope when they are placed in a different position, such as an administration official?

The role of a civic movement member is the role of criticism. It is to add salt to society. Salt stops corruption but salt itself cannot be the object that is being salted. Civic movements might be efficient in criticizing and demanding improvements in what has been done, but they are not used to creating something out of nothing. Because they are dependent on the power of the people, it is difficult to tell whether civic movements have the bite that goes with their bark. Civic movements are more used to demanding justice for the past rather than assessing the present with understanding and compassion. They criticize businesses but could never be business people themselves. In other words, they are interested in partaking of the pie but they have no ability to bake it. This is why it is dangerous that civic movements should be given the role of reforming our conglomerates. That is not their role in society.

Civic movements tend to be emotional rather than rational, idealistic rather than realistic. A civic movement member might have common sense but not often expertise -- modern society demands specialists, well-trained and able to take responsibility for problems.

Civic movements observe from the outside, not through experience. Civic movements might lead a candlelight rally to protest U.S.-Korean relations, but just because the candlelight rally was successful does not mean they should be given the job of handling U.S.-Korean diplomacy. It is the same with the so-called prosecution reforms and media reform. Our society should uphold professionalism. We know well what kind of results the reforms of the last two governments, led by amateurs, have brought. Once we talked about the evils of bureaucracy, but evil has befallen the bureaucracy during the last 10 years when the two civilian presidents were in office. This failing was because the governments did not acknowledge professionalism. This is no time to leave brain surgery to amateurs. We must search for the expertise needed in every field.

Civic movement leaders should go back to their places as civic movement leaders. If they have been successful so far, that means they were cut out to lead those movements. Everyone has a job that is right for him.

"Why shouldn't I be inside the power circle?" Such an attitude by civic movement leaders would distort their movements to be stepping stones to power, and even if they do attain that power they would fail in the end. It is only when we drop the arrogant illusion that we are omnipotent and walk in humbleness that society will be balanced, harmonious and well developed.


by Moon Chang-keuk

* The writer is the chief editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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