[FOUNTAIN]Importance of Not Being ThereBruno Walter, a famous conductor in the time of long-playing records, is remembered for his masterful interpretations of Mozart's works. Some point out that his interpretations are "Viennese-style mixed with sentimentalism," but the "lofty tone and softness" he extracted from Mozart's works is legendary.
Mr. Walter never lorded it over his orchestra members. He never pedantically intervened in the interpretation of a work by the members of his orchestra. His character was directly opposite to that of Arturo Toscanini, the perfectionist conductor criticized for having the manner of a military band master. Mr. Walter used to implore his orchestra members in rehearsals, "Beautifully, so beautifully that it brings tears," but that was his only demand. Somehow, the sounds of his orchestra retained his distinctive touch. I suddenly recalled the old virtuoso at the news that President George W. Bush of the United States had begun a month-long vacation.
I was surprised at Mr. Bush's courage. As the busiest government official in the world's sole superpower, he plans to retire to his ranch and rest for as long as 31 days. It is said Mr. Bush's 31-day vacation has taken the record as the longest presidential vacation. But most of Mr. Bush's predecessors also took vacations at least two weeks long. What about Korea? Neither a president nor a minister would dare to be away on vacation for a month. If there was one, it would be nigh impossible for him to duck harsh public criticism.
A founder and chief executive officer of a company recently spoke of his experience relating to the Korean work ethic. He resigned as president and took the nominal post of chairman, while transferring the right of management to his successor. He continued working in the building, but realized his colleagues around him were still overly conscious of his presence. Fearing that the situation could harm the efficiency of the firm's operations and detract from the new president's leadership, he moved his office to a corner of a floor above. After the move, he never appeared on the lower floor. Ever since, the company's profitability has improved.
He was unusual in that he chose not to transfer the rights to his company to a family member. We can trust his word. "I know a simple way to encourage ministers to take full responsibility for their administration," he said. "How about moving President Kim Dae-jung's office to Taejon? That would tell the ministers to take full charge. Impossible in Korea? Then how about prolonging the Korean presidential vacation to two weeks?"
The writer is an editor of JoongAng Ilbo publications.
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