Truth can be found in one person's courage

Home > Opinion > Columns

print dictionary print

Truth can be found in one person's courage

A few days ago, the Washington Post published the obituary of Frank Wills, who was instrumental in uncovering the Watergate scandal. One summer night during the 1972 U.S. presidential campaign, Wills, a security guard at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., noticed an unlocked door while walking his rounds. Five intruders were caught inside the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, staff writers at the Washington Post, learned that the men were found with bugging devices and almost $3,000 in cash, mostly in crisp $100 bills, at the time of their arrest. The reporters also received information that the White House was attempting to shelter the suspects.

It required great determination for the Washington Post to pursue the unfolding scandal. Katharine Graham, then the Post''s publisher, later commented that the power of knowing the truth had encouraged her throughout the reporting of the scandal despite pressure and threats from the Nixon White House. The power of the White House severely affected even an ordinary man like Wills, who lost his job and failed to find another one.

However, at every significant point in the development of the scandal which eventually caused Nixon to resign, there was always "one significant individual," who did not yield to temptation or the force of political power. When the White House, to prevent further accusations of high-level involvement, tried to put the full blame on the five suspects, the federal court judge hearing their cases imposed the maximum sentence but left open the possibility of reducing the sentences in return for cooperation in uncovering the truth. His action induced some of the participants to name those behind the Watergate incident.

Nixon continued to conceal the truth throughout the scandal. He ordered the dismissal of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox when Cox asked for tape recordings of White House conversations. But Attorney General Eliot Richardson refused to carry out the president? order and chose to resign. This incident, later known as the "Saturday night massacre," proved an important catalyst for President Nixon''s eventual resignation.

Following last year''s "furgate" scandal in Korea, the Hanvit Bank loan scandal again stirred up the nation. Despite the humiliation of the prosecution because of its unsatisfactory investigation of the "furgate" matter, the prosecution again seemed to follow the same path, insisting that the Hanvit case was nothing more than a failed lobbying attempt. The prosecution calls the scandal a simple case of fraud between bank employees and imposters claiming to represent political interests.

Is it possible for a local bank branch to loan $89 million to an imposter? The prosecution keeps defending this nonsensical investigation result although the entire nation can easily conjecture a deeper plot.

People frequently criticize the prosecution and press for incompetent investigations and reports. At the same time, people also pity them because "they may have no better choice." People no longer hold high expectations of the institutions which uphold the law and report on attempts to circumvent it.

In fact, the prosecution and press, both groups which need firm determination in their work, try to blame higher authorities and circumstances. They console themselves by repeating that "no one can resolve this problem anyway."

Debate continues whether it is individual persons or the system which has caused the current ills of Korean society. Some insist that reforming the system is vital to resolve our problems, while others emphasize the importance of individual morality, justice and will.

Even well-established systems fail without the strong will of individuals. Because democracy is maintained by our constitutional system and freedom of the press, "one individual with strong will" is the key to determine the success or failure of our system at a critical moment.

At every single turning of the Watergate scandal, there was always "one significant individual." Certainly, our society? single biggest problem is that we lack "the one." Without the determination to become "tne significant individual" by maintaining one''s rightful position at the critical moment, there is no future for Korean society.


by Moon Chang-geuk

Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
s
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)

What’s Popular Now