[FORUM]Un-authoritarian authorityThis is the time when President Roh Moo-hyun should say, “So, you want to defy the rules?” Then he should show that his administration is not a paper tiger. It is time for some displays of anger. Where has his challenging rhetoric and facile wordsmithing gone?
A government with authority is much different from an authoritarian government. The latter has disappeared here in South Korea. But we didn’t resist authoritarian regimes to undermine all the authority of the government. Regardless of whether they are pro-Roh or anti-Roh, people want a government that can maintain law and order. Markets, business firms, workers and other countries will be happy with such a government. But these days we see no authority in the government and group actions overriding the authority of the government are everywhere. That’s not a hopeful sign.
The truckers’ boycott was not a union strike, but a collective action. Independent truckers are not wage laborers but business proprietors, as the Supreme Court ruled in the independent cement mixer truckers case. Professor Jeon Yoong-deok of Daegu University pointed out, “The group action suggests that labor movements are dwindling and interest groups’ collective actions are emerging in our society.”
The government couldn’t regulate the illegal actions of the Pohang branch of the independent truckers’ association that blocked Posco’s products from being shipped. In the end, the government made great concessions to the truckers, giving up its principles in a hurry before President Roh came home from the United States. The truckers won the blackmail game against the government with hostages ― an absent president and a vital service.
The moment the president came home, Hanchongryun, the banned radical student organization, blocked him from attending the anniversary celebration of the May 18 democracy movement in Gwangju. Students denounced the recent meeting between President Roh and U.S. President George W. Bush as “humiliating” and cried out for anti-Americanism to rise again.
What? Humiliating? This time President Roh should not say, “Though the students humiliated me, let’s laugh it off.” This outrage cannot be overlooked. President Roh should confront the students.
As matter of fact, there was nothing clearly solved by Mr. Roh’s visit to the United States. Reconfirming the alliance may have been a good fruit, but neither the North Korea nuclear crisis nor economic stability, the most important two pending issues for South Korea, were tackled convincingly at the summit.
Both leaders made a few concessions to each other and avoided touching the core of the North Korea nuclear issue. So can we say that President Bush was also humiliated by the summit with President Roh? When President Roh ― he said he wouldn’t go to the United States for a photo opportunity ― was having his picture taken with influential business figures on Wall Street, the truckers’ boycott was taking President Roh as a hostage. In other words, first the truckers dampened the president’s hard work in the United States for the sake of the nation’s economy and security, and then students threw stones at him as soon as he came home.
Brazil’s President Lula da Silva is a man who knows his responsibility for government affairs. “I could swagger when I was in the opposition because there was nothing I had to take responsibility for. But now I’m in power. It’s time to take action,” he told Brazilian businessmen during a speech to mark his 100th day in office. Though his supporters, such as the university professors union, fiercely resisted the change, Mr. da Silva is strongly pushing for reforms in pension, taxation and finance, saying he will confront interest groups directly. As a result, international financial markets are seeing Brazil’s economy differently from the past and Brazilian government bonds are now again welcome in international financial markets.
About a year ago, our citizens, shouting “Be the Reds!” flocked together and showed their soccer passion. Candle-light vigils followed, and the passion pushed Roh Moo-hyun to the presidency. But Mr. Roh’s tears with John Lennon’s “Imagine” as background music for a campaign ad during the election campaign cannot tackle diplomacy, national security, the economy and other state affairs. President Roh should realize that. Some people worry that the citizens who were shouting “Be the Reds” may be real devils if the energy and passion goes astray.
Did you cast a ballot for the wrong candidate in December’s election? The answer to that question depends on how President Roh and his supporters behave in the future.
* The writer is a deputy managing editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Su-gil