[INSIGHT]The Uncouth Political Heavyweights

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[INSIGHT]The Uncouth Political Heavyweights

If there can be such thing as politicking by playing golf, Kim Jong-pil, honorary president of the United Liberal Democrats, seems to be good at it, possibly better than anyone else. A few days ago Mr. Kim played golf with Pak Se-ri, the renowned professional golf player on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour in the United States. This happened after a big fuss over high stakes golf among leading politicians of the ruling coalition. According to a report, Mr. Kim shot 78 strokes for the game with Ms. Pak. He must be a single digit handicapper, even though accompanying players kept score liberally.

Another golf aficionado, former president of the United States Bill Clinton, is well known for his liberal play. He seems to enjoy his games more than caring about the rules. He does not mind wielding his driver two or three times for a hole. Nevertheless his wish during his two terms was to become a single digit handicapper. Mr. Kim and Kim Sang-hyun, who is also said to have shot 78 strokes in the high stakes golf game, must be better at playing golf than Bill Clinton.

Ms. Pak was reported to say, " Mr. Kim Jong-pil reached the level that a player can get to without having professional training." I am just wondering if she also alluded to his playing etiquette by saying " without having professional training."

There are many politicians who play golf with bad manners. According to officials with golf courses, political heavyweights of past governments could be eyesores because of their arrogant behavior. They were late for their tee-off and took mulligans (one more shot without penalty) granted. They would play quite often a high stakes game and indulge in binge drinking of high-priced whiskey after the game. Recently they added one more charge. They are interfering with others by constant talking on their mobile phones.

That is why there is a saying that the environment of every golf course has been ruined by people who recently made a fortune on speculation and new political heavyweights who run amuck when the new government is sworn in.

Their arrogant behavior is not new to us. After the May 16 Coup in 1961 and the December 12 Coup in 1979, we saw similar behavior by military officers who assumed omnipotent powers in a day and ran the government with vulgarity. We still cannot help but frown whenever reminded of their rude behavior. Among military officers personal ties were more important than capability, taking orders from above superceded discussion and uniformity outweighed diversity. And this political culture lingers still. They got jobs not based on their abilities but based on personal ties and seniority in the military. So one thing they kept in mind was to be faithful to their superiors. Every post was related to self-interest. Every profiteer gathered around the smell like flies. Injustice, corruption and something to see stemmed from it.

Problem is we are still seeing similar things even with the present and past civilian governments. Simply, the customers for the boilermakers and upscale hostess bars have changed from political heavyweights of former military officers to civilian strongmen. Of course their dialects have changed, too. It is a great relief that the heavyweights of the current government are said to behave a lot better than those of past governments. However, the shameful conduct by political wannabes running after political heavyweights from hotels to offices seems to have gotten uglier. Why do those wannabes want to meet the heavyweights? What do the heavyweights tell the wannabes. Do they talk about political reforms? Or do they talk about sweetdeals? From the continuous appointments that place politicians and party members at the head of state corporations, one can guess what the conversations are about. This was what really typified the military regimes.

A few days ago, the Supreme Council of the Millennium Democratic Party had a productive discussion. They talked about worries over so-called " reform fatigue" and emphasized that they should wind up their reforms rather than start new programs at this junction. They presented diverse alternatives for and criticism on the reform policies in general. This event caused me to think the ruling party was in its proper role again and I felt encouraged. However, the members of the Supreme Council lost face after the Blue House stubbornly expressed that the reforms should go on.

A similar thing happened when legislators and some party members asked that the leadership of the ruling party be held accountable for the defeat in the by-election on April 26. The party's leadership refuted the demand condemning it as the opposition party's old habit to be given up. The leadership even roared, " Be like the ruling party." I am wondering if the slogan, " Be like the ruling party," means " Be happy with being muzzled."

Being like the ruling party should mean something else. Politicians should do something to upgrade the decency of our democracy.


The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Heo Nam-chin

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