[EDITORIALS]Stop the doublespeakIt is deplorable that Roh Moo-hyun, a presidential candidate from the Millennium Democratic Party, is tilting toward depending on hit-and-run tactics and subtle changes of words when he deals with the controversy over his views on the press.
Mr. Roh is confusing the people by continuosly changing his words on a subject. His view on the press should be thoroughly scrutinized since he looks like a presidential candidate much more promising than anyone else. His views on the press will clearly tell us where he stands in terms of ideology.
In his address Friday at the Incheon primary, he said, "I have not succumbed to the two newspapers, Chosun and Dong-A, that asked me to give up my stance of limitation on individual ownership of the newspapers. That is why I am being unfairly attacked." He was met by thunderous applause when he said, "I will not make myself a servile politician by surrendering to the press."
But his shocking disclosure soon turned out to be untrue. After the primary, the Chosun and Dong-A newspapers protested by asking, "When did we put such pressure on you?" Mr. Roh's camp said, "We assumed so by reading the editorial directions of your paper. If we are wrong, we want to aplogoize to the Chosun." And: "There have been several occasions that could be construed as pressure from the Dong-A." It was an absurd scene of changing words by Mr. Roh's camp. But at the primary they have already been handsomely rewarded by projecting the image of "We are enduring unfair attacks from the press without a flinch."
In just a few hours, Mr. Roh retracted and reversed what he had said at the primary. Mr. Roh's behavior can be criticized as being devised to gain public sympathy by making the people believe that he is the victim of a press that is scrutinizing his ideology and policies.
You cannot trust people's explanations if they change their words and attitutes too often. Mr. Roh changed his words once again in explaining a conversation he had with five reporters during a dinner Aug. 5. On Sunday, he said that he had never talked about closing down the Dong-A Ilbo at the dinner. But he rembered saying then, "It is worthwhile to consider employee stock ownership for the Dong-A" and " It is probably possible for the Bank of Korea to give special loans to reporters of the Dong-A." The explanations are much more understandable than when he initially responded to accusations by saying that it was a groundless fabrication that he had said that the Dong-A should be closed down. But that he uttered the possibility of employee stock ownership for a specific newspaper can be construed as a politician's twisted will to intervene in the press. It is also lethally threatening to the freedom of the press when he told a paper, "Hands off at the primary of the MDP."
Whenever his worrisome words and deeds in the past come up, he avoids discussing them by saying, "I have changed my mind" or "I never said that." It is improper for him to counter the press' search for objective facts by changing the subject, as if he were suddenly a victim and the press a victimizer.
The more he avoids discussing these matters, the bigger the controversy will get. The people still want to hear his explanation on past thoughts, such as "We don't need to abide by the law, if it is not right," "Jaebeols should be dissolved" and " I agree with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Korea." No matter what he does, a candidate can change words and still win an election. But it is not a tactic that a new politician can do in this new era, especially if he wants to give hope to people and gain their trust.