[OUTLOOK]'Hiddink leadership' for Koreans

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[OUTLOOK]'Hiddink leadership' for Koreans

The whole country is in a festive mood, enjoying South Korea's first victory ever in the World Cup soccer tournament in 48 years. Behind the impressive victory lies the Korean athletes' exhaustive training and strong efforts. But the one who led them to the victory was Guus Hiddink, the Dutch coach of the Korean national soccer team.

The road to the round of 16 is still dotted with obstacles, but Mr. Hiddink's leadership is already in the spotlight. A victory and a draw may not be enough to bring us to the "sweet 16," but the uncertainty does not undermine the expectations and interest that Korean people are hanging on this outstanding soccer coach.

His popularity now transcends simple admiration: Korean people now want to learn from his leadership, which he has bluntly shown by persistently pushing ahead with his plans despite the criticism that swirled around him during the 500 days that he has coached the Korea national team.

I am concerned that the local elections on Thursday have been pushed out of people's minds by the soccer fever. In contrast to the bustling World Cup stadiums, the campaign events of local election candidates have attracted few attendees. Political parties and candidates struggle to win a few votes by taking advantage of World Cup and Hiddink fads. Candidates are borrowing the images of soccer and Mr. Hiddink in their advertising.

But the shallow calculation to ride the tide of the World Cup frenzy will benefit neither the candidates nor our political system. However, the basic values of soccer and Mr. Hiddink's leadership can be used positively.

Let us examine what local election candidates should learn from the "Hiddink-style leadership."

First, politicians have to clearly understand priorities in government affairs. Mr. Hiddink knew that a new management strategy was needed after the fundamentals were in place. He trained players with an emphasis on basic physical strength first.

Political leaders want to do a lot of things, but their human and financial resources are limited. They have to make value judgments about opportunities to maximize the efficiency of resource distribution. To our regret, so far, Korean politicians have been more swayed by political interests than priorities in charting the nation's course.

Second, they have to pay attention to the quality of their work force. In the past, the nomination of the 23 players that went to the World Cup tournament was influenced by lobbying and personal ties.

This time, Mr. Hiddink was given the sole power to select the most qualified players, which allowed him to establish his leadership and authority effectively.

Management ultimately seeks productivity, which requires a talented work force that can put management strategies into practice. Political leaders should also detach themselves from regionalism and personal ties and contribute to forming a society where people are evaluated on their capabilities.

Third, politicians must set up a transparent management system that focuses on benefits to the public. Mr. Hiddink, as an outsider, was free of local interests and could maintain his leadership by transparent management. A company's existence is threatened if it sticks to conventional Korean closed management and shuns transparency these days. Likewise, all political leaders must always put the national interest first, let the public know how they plan to manage the country and take responsibility for the people who entrusted them with the duty of leading the country.

Finally, politicians have to be able to lay out a clear vision of the future. Mr. Hiddink from the beginning has stated a clear goal -- for Korea to make it into the round of 16. Political leaders should show new vision, promote innovation and make our nation a strong one. They should not forget the vision that promises a brighter future whatever difficulty Korea faces.

They should be able to transform a crisis into an opportunity by sticking to their vision of the future.

I hope that in the local election many candidates with those qualities of "Hiddink leadership" are elected for the benefit of Korea.


The writer is a professor of economics at Dankook University.

by Kang Myung-hun

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