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[FOUNTAIN]The ways of a simple man

May 14,2003
Early in his term, U.S. President George W. Bush was often mocked as simple-minded and ignorant. His frequent slips of the tongue, stolidity and rudeness were the subject of a book, “The Bush Dyslexicon.”
At that time, one of the people on the receiving end of Mr. Bush’s insolence was South Korea’s president, Kim Dae-jung. Mr. Kim wanted to convince Mr. Bush about Seoul’s engagement policy toward the North before the Bush administration shaped its North Korea policy.
Being a Nobel laureate, 21 years older than Mr. Bush and having the reputation of world-renowned leader reportedly made Mr. Kim act like a teacher in front of the U.S. president. Mr. Bush referred to President Kim as “this man,” and said he was skeptical about the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, upsetting the South Korean president.
In contrast, Mr. Bush’s simplicity was demonstrated as unconditional trust and friendliness when he met with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, three months later. Mr. Bush, a devoted Christian who goes to bed early to get up early the next morning to read the Bible, fixed his eyes on the antique cross necklace around Mr. Putin’s neck as soon as the two met.
“You were a communist and a KGB agent, but you are wearing a cross necklace. Did you get it from your mother?” Mr. Bush asked Mr. Putin without reservation. Mr. Putin replied “yes” and told the story behind the necklace. Mr. Bush asked Mr. Putin if it was permissible for Mr. Bush to call him by his first name.
Mr. Bush’s question rarely takes place even among ordinary people, but his warmth saved embarrassment. The two men called each other by their first names in their meeting.
Since then, Vladimir has not hidden his support for George’s war in Afghanistan. George invited Vladimir to his private ranch in Crawford, Texas, and worried about Russia’s debt problems as if the concerns were his own. The two nations’ interests collided at the time of the Iraq war, but their friendship survived.
Mr. Bush reportedly has a simple view of the Korean Peninsula -- satellite photos showing North Korea’s famine and prison camps. Mr. Bush may ask Mr. Roh about this, and Mr. Roh’s answer will probably make an impression on Mr. Bush. These two leaders, of the same age, have similar personalities. I hope they become fast friends.


by Chun Young-gi

The writer is the deputy editor of the political desk with the JoongAng Ilbo.


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