[OUTLOOK]Roh administration needs agendaThe future depends on the present. To design the future life properly and reach the destination exactly, we need to identify our present position and set the goal properly. Unfortunately, however, it is truly hard for us, human beings, to know our position. That is why we seek a sage for advice or listen to prophecies. Strictly, we have our fortune told not because we want to know our future but because we don’t know our present status well.
It is even more difficult for a community to know its position than for individuals. We may think we know our community well, but it is no easy job to know the position of our community. When a nation’s economy is closely related to other economies, knowing how other countries perceive our country is essential in finding out our position. Although we tend to see the world from the perspective of our own country, Korea is viewed as a small country at the edge of the world by those who see the world with Europe, America, Africa, India or China as its center.
In order to plan its future and make progress in the international community, a country needs to have a vision and strategy for survival and development. But ordinary people usually do not know well what kinds of vision or strategy would enrich their future life. For this reason, they adopt a representative government and train experts to have them tackle such problems. Our country is no exception. We elect the president and parliamentary members and foster experts to have them contribute to making the Republic of Korea a country where people can lead more humane and abundant lives. Therefore, representatives, intellectuals, and experts of this country should present their people with such a vision and strategy for the survival and development for the future of Korea.
In retrospect, political forces under the past governments wasted time forming factions to seize power and gain their own profits during critical periods. And individual groups in our society advocated their own interest and tried to depend on collective power to gain what they wanted. Unprepared administrations lacked capability to coordinate social conflicts and had no visions to base a definite decision on.
Now we should not overlook this situation any more. The Roh Moo-hyun government should take the lead in suggesting a broader framework for our future and lay out strategy for overcoming the peripheral status of Korea so that the nation can survive and develop under the circumstances of growing interdependency among countries. The government should play the leading role of coming up with proper visions, persuading its people, and coordinating capabilities of the whole community toward one direction. The politicians should be no longer engaged in factious quarrels, blame the international rules by insisting on rules set only for domestic players, and instigate the uninformed public to stick to a narrow nationalism.
For that purpose, we should first figure out where we are at present. We should also perceive exactly what is the mainstream trend of the world, be able to behave in an active and refined manner in diverse global cultures, and decide where to place our growth engine to actualize all of these goals. In addition, the government should devise policies on how to assure a sustained competency for development without falling behind the speedy race of advanced countries, how to solve the problem of our language isolated from the other languages in a multicultural context, and how to help our people catch up with and share knowledge and information and technology in a internationally competitive environment.
To this end, the Roh administration should make a drastic reform, above all, in the sectors of education, labor and politics. The president should not adhere to short-term popularity or support rate. Instead, he should honestly persuade people to secure trust and make a special determination, if necessary, in accordance with the constitutionally-endowed authority.
But the task of presenting a national vision or strategy is not limited to the government. The media should not just wait for the results of the government’s initiatives to assess them but also should actively find ways to have opportunities to discuss with the government. Also, the intellectuals should show a more responsible attitude. Nevertheless, it is the government that should take the most active role. No other governmental function is more important than to suggest future visions and survival strategies. This is why a presidential agenda should be set.
* The writer is a professor of constitutional law at Seoul National University.
by Jung Jong-seop