[FOUNTAIN]Golf as political albatrossThe attraction of golf is in the harmony of the flight of the ball, created through human skill and the unavoidable winds of fortune. People heading to golf courses become excited from the anticipation of erasing everything from their minds and becoming totally engrossed in nature.
In May, golf courses, touched by the season’s blessing, are a display of mature natural beauty befitting the queen month of the seasons. Brilliant solid green hues, clear waters and chirping of birds adorn them.
President Roh Moo-hyun recently played golf, saying as he left the links, “I have unloaded a little bit of worry because of this abundant and beautiful place.”
President Roh’s visit was the first time in a decade that an incumbent president went out on a golf course. Former President Kim Young-sam ordered a ban on golf for public officials. Blue House secretaries who were discovered having played golf after the ban were assigned to obscure posts and were forced into retirement later. In one case Mr. Kim demoted the chief commissioner of a regional police agency for golfing.
There are reportedly three reasons that Kim Young-sam gave up golfing. First, it took up too much time. Second, he often lost, which was a difficult thing to swallow for a man whose appetite for winning is never satiated. Third, as a mountain climber, he was always the leader of the pack. But in golf, he must play in a team of four, each taking a turn at the lead.
President Kim Dae-jung did not play golf because of his limp. He once vowed to “build paddies over golf courses.” But before the 1997 presidential election, he rescinded the vow, saying golf should be a public sport. He had to assure his opponents, mainly conservatives and members of the high-income brackets, that he was not dangerous. Former presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo, who persistently encountered questions about the legitimacy of their regimes, took special care to avoid having their golfing made public.
President Roh Moo-hyun has increased his worries, one of his supporters wrote, because “Low-income citizens, who cast votes for you, are crying” over the president’s golfing incursions.
Millions of Koreans played golf as foursomes last year. Around 2.7 million Koreans play golf regularly, more than the number of pro-baseball spectators. Should golf be taboo for presidents, and is it a sport for the select few?
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.