[INSIGHT] Power much like an addictive drugPolitical power might hold off a disaster for a while, but it will not make it go away.
Power is a strange thing. It is like a magic wand that produces all the prestige and wealth in the world ?only to turn on its holder and strike him down. Power seems to be more of a disaster than a blessing for an administration at the end of its term. Plenty of examples can be found in these recent days.
Take Shin Seung-nam, the former prosecutor general. With both his brother and sister having been sent to prison or already there, Mr. Shin is now being indicted. Had he not been a powerful man in his time, would such misfortunes have fallen upon his family?
The same goes for Ahn Jung-nam, the former commissioner of the National Tax Service. He who had gone after newspaper companies with all the self-righteousness in the world a few months ago is now hiding somewhere abroad. He faces charges of tax evasion if he comes back. Had he not become the tax commissioner, maybe he could have kept his lucrative property in Daechi-dong a secret and lived happily ever after.
It is yet unclear what fate power holds for the intended prime minister, Chang Sang. One thing for sure, though, is that she would not have had so much trouble with her son being a U.S. national and with a land property she purchased 10 years ago had she not agreed to become prime minister. She would have just remained a respected former president of a prestigious university,
Topping the list, however, is President Kim Dae-jung and his family. Had Kim Dae-jung not become president, his sons and their friends would probably not have ended up in prison. Nor would the nephew of his wife, Lee Hyung-taek, nor his friend, Lee ?he butler?Soo-dong. One of them could very well have led an ordinary but happy life as a capable financier and the other as a hard-working and honest citizen. These men might have enjoyed a boastful life and made money in the meantime, but their days in prison cannot be compensated by the memories of better days.
President Kim himself had achieved his lifelong dream of becoming president and even won the Nobel Peace Prize, yet these achievements could probably not lessen the pain he surely felt when two of his sons went to jail. The fact that President Kim is in such a high and powerful seat could probably make his sons's misfortunes even more unbearable for him.
Thus, the two faces of power. While wise rulers have always known that the only way to decrease this danger of power is to decrease their usage of power, the less unfortunate ones have been repeating the same mistakes over and over in history.
Power liability to bring disaster is due to its proneness to use force rather than rely on law and common sense to get things done. As too often seen in history, the power-holder? attempts to recoup disaster with power leads to further disaster. The last thing this administration should do is use its power in trying to cure its present ?oweraches.? The government announced its cabinet reshuffling the day after the indictment of Kim Hong-up, the president? son, and news of his indictment was pushed to the side.
President Kim claims that he had never been told of his sons's activities. He has announced that he intends for his private peace foundation to reopen despite the major role it played in the downfall of his son. The president has also kept his security adviser, Lim Dong-won, and Shin Kuhn, the head of the National Intelligence Service, despite their admission of having given money to the president's son.
This is not solving one? disasters according to law and common sense. The president might feel comfortable with his claim that he had never been told of what his sons had been up to, but where would that put the majority of his staff whose duties it would have been to have told him? Did President Kim mean to reprimand his staff with his claim? If so, why isn't? anyone being made to ?ay up?so far? These decisions of the president seem to indicate that he has not yet learned the lesson of the consequences of power abused.
Already, there are plenty of rumors about the Blue House? influence over prosecutors and whether Mr. Lim and Mr. Shin were the only public officers who had given money to the president's son.
Unless these rumors are proved right or wrong, disaster will continue for the president? family. And the right way to solve this problem is by law and common sense, not power. Power might hold off a disaster for some time, but it will not make it go away. Only law and common sense will be able to do that. Like an addictive drug, power can be a medicine or a poison depending on the way it is used. Like any addiction, power addicts should realize that power is not going to solve power problems.
The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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