[FOUNTAIN]Leadership by betrayalLet’s call it “leadership by betrayal.” At some points in history, leaders feel it necessary to go against the tide of what their supporters want and risk criticism, loss of office or even death in some cases. If that leadership is successful, though, peace and harmony can follow.
In September 1993, Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, met Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the White House in Washington to sign a peace treaty. The press at the time described the negotiations and results as “the meeting of the century.”
Mr. Arafat told Mr. Rabin that the struggle for peace was the most difficult war of all, and Mr. Rabin replied that he would pray for the day when the conflict between the two parties was ended.
The Israelis of Mr. Rabin and the Palestinians of Mr. Arafat have been antagonists for thousands of years. The two leaders both betrayed their people’s demands for war against the other, and chose the road of peace.
Two years later, Mr. Rabin was assassinated by the fundamentalist Israelis who bitterly opposed the peace treaty with the PLO. Mr. Rabin had opted for the universal value of peace over the provincial interests of his supporters.
And that was not the first tragedy. Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat, who signed the 1978 Camp David peace accord with Israel, died in 1981 in a hail of gunfire from fundamentalist Muslims.
Former President Kim Dae-jung, in his book “My Way, My Thoughts,” wrote, “I highly respect Mr. Arafat. He took a resolute step to face fundamental Muslims who detested the Israelis, a decision that may risk his life. Mr. Rabin should receive great respect as well.”
Mr. Kim further wrote, “It is a courageous act to fight against enemies. But it is more courageous for a leader to make a decision and act even when his supporters think he has betrayed them. When I see that kind of leadership, I see the meaning of life.”
But Mr. Kim appears to feel betrayed after his successor signed a bill allowing a special prosecutor to investigate secret money transfers to North Korea in 2000. Roh Moo-hyun’s refusal to veto the bill was the leadership by betrayal. He ignored his party and chose what the public wanted.
I hope that leadership by betrayal helps to bring peace to Korean politics.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.