[FOUNTAIN]Don't be like him, Mr. Roh

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[FOUNTAIN]Don't be like him, Mr. Roh

Koreans use the word tasanjiseok quite often. The phrase is quoted from "Shijing," or Book of Odes, from ancient China. The literal meaning is that the ordinary stones in the mountains of others can be useful to grind the jade in my mountain. In other words, even a gentleman can learn something from the behaviors or words of a worthless person.

There is another similar yet more straightforward word: banmyeongyosa. Mao Zedong reportedly first used the phrase during the Cultural Revolution. The phrase referred to groups or individuals that posed threats to the revolution. These days, the phrase is simply used for situations in which people learn lessons observing the mistakes of others. An extreme example would be displaying a car crumbled like a sheet of paper on the spot where automobile accidents occur frequently.

A few days ago, U.S. media reported that Roh Moo-hyun, president-elect from the ruling Millennium Democratic Party, resembled German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in foreign policy. Some newspapers adopted negative tones, calling Mr. Roh "the Schroeder of Korea." It seems the United States feels uncomfortable about the fact that a more pro-autonomy figure rose to the leadership of one of its allies.

In fact, Mr. Roh and Mr. Schroeder do have many things in common. They have the attitude that they will say to the United States exactly what they want. Like Mr. Schroeder, Mr. Roh grew up in a poor family. Each depended largely on young voters for their victory. Each came from behind to win. I am not sure what Mr. Roh would think about the comparison. But I hope Mr. Roh gracefully objects when there is an opportunity, because Mr. Schroeder is not an object of comparison, but an object of banmyeongyosa.

As soon as he won a second term in office, Mr. Schroeder abandoned the promises that he made to the voters, and raised taxes. According to a recent poll, 40 percent of companies said they will move their factories out of Germany because of high taxes. Mr. Schroeder's victory in the election is attributable to his opposition to the U.S. plan for war against Iraq, but that has backfired and Germany is ostracized in the international community. Mr. Schroder is a great example of banmyeongyosa. Of course, you can find better examples in Korea.

The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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