[FOUNTAIN]In Summer, Follow the Leader

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[FOUNTAIN]In Summer, Follow the Leader

In the absence of pressing issues at home, President Jacques Chirac of France is famous for spending his summer vacations overseas. Every August, he goes to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean with his family for three weeks at the luxury Royal Palm Hotel. Or, at least, he did.

This year, Mr. Chirac is reportedly spending his vacation at a more modest resort in southern France. This comes after a critical article in Paris-Match, a weekly magazine, last summer, in which it spilled the beans on the Mauritius hotel's nightly 22,000 French francs ($3,068) price tag. The press went on to question whether their president wasn't footing the bill with embezzled money left over from serving as prime minister. Some argue the barrage of criticism left Mr. Chirac no choice but to spend his vacation quietly in the south of France.

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain is reportedly also spending this year's summer vacation in a somewhat thrifty way. The JoongAng Ilbo reported on Wednesday that he decided to use extremely economical airplane tickets that cost only about $70 for a round trip to his favorite relaxing place, the village of Saint Martin d'Oydes in southwestern France. After making an official tour to Central and South America at the end of last month, he spent a leisurely week in Mexico with his family. He reportedly paid himself the $7,200 air fares for himself and his wife because the trip included personal holiday time. Some say he did so because the press had previously slammed him for spending taxpayers' money on splendid summer vacations.

The Chinese characters for "vacation" literally mean "days borrowed to rest in the shade under a tree after hard labor." The word implies that a vacation prepares us for more hard work. Vacations do not exist so you can waste public money when you have "borrowed" the time to rest.

Our own president, Kim Dae-jung, has already ended his summer vacation of three nights and four days at Cheongnamdae, a presidential resort. Yet the heads of other countries are still enjoying their "working" summer vacations at private lodges or presidential resorts. President George W. Bush of the United States is spending his month-long vacation at his private ranch in Crawford, Texas. Chinese President Jiang Zemin is staying at a seaside resort in Beidaihe set on the bay of Bohai, hosting meetings in the morning and swimming in the afternoon.

If the press did not monitor how presidents spent their vacations, Mr. Chirac and Mr. Blair could have spent further luxurious vacations overseas this year. Does this mean the press is being overzealous?

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myong-bok

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