[FOUNTAIN]A spoonful of sugar

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[FOUNTAIN]A spoonful of sugar

Firms are trying to strengthen their dialogue channels with clients through their Internet sites. They try to provide better service and defer to their customers' opinions. They are also promoting their sites' bulletin boards as places where customers can post frank comments about the company.

Bulletin boards of political parties are overflowing with complaints and compliments about the parties' presidential candidates. Some voters have also started such sites on their own to reach the candidates with criticism of extravagant campaign pledges or advice on how to boost a candidate's image. Although the campaign staffers say most such advice is worthless, they comb through the messages for the occasional nugget of gold.

Campaign organizations and businesses agree that listening to criticism helps overcome laziness, arrogance and self-satisfaction. In the past, some elite Korean courtiers who gave candid advice to their kings were executed for their efforts, so an indirect approach was considered more effective. Tang Tai-chung, a ruler during China's Tang Dynasty, scolded officials who did not criticize him, saying it was a neglect of duty. But in his later years, he did not like criticism either. Angered by candid advice presented by one of his subjects, the king decided to execute the adviser, but the queen stopped him, saying only a stupid king packed his court with bootlickers.

Nowadays, former bureaucrats and company executives are giving distasteful advice to the government and businesses. Park Jong-ik, a former head of the Korea Non-Life Insurance Association, demanded that the government stop interfering in the association's personnel matters.

Yim Young-chul, a lawyer who served on the Fair Trade Commission, said that bureaucrats cater to their seniors like gangsters serve their leaders. The government should pay attention to such remarks.

Louis V. Gerstner Jr., who will retire this year as chairman and chief executive of IBM, said that an organization should always fight to avoid becoming a bureaucracy.

At sensitive times, people who want to present constructive criticism should be careful to select the right timing and the method of presentation.

The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Choi Chul-joo

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