[FORUM]An emperor falls atop the nationThe whole country is in a row over the “Kim Un-yong scandal.” The focal point of the controversy is whether Mr. Kim, blinded by his personal fame of being elected International Olympic Committee vice president, sabotaged South Korea’s bid, a “national project,” to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. Opinions vary widely, from arguments that he should resign from all sports-related official posts, including the vice presidency of the Olympic Committee, to arguments that we should stop digging into his alleged lobbying because this will harm our national interest.
At the outset, the political and sports communities wasted time failing to coordinate the competition between Muju and Pyeongchang to host the winter games. Given the situation, scoring the highest in the first round of voting and losing the bid by only three votes in the final round was a great outcome of the Korean delegation’s waging just a 30-month campaign. When the news reached us, we Koreans welcomed it as an achievement as miraculous as our delegation winning the right to play host for the 2002 World Cup. But our wonder and pride vanished suddenly as we faced the gloomy reality of watching “our twisted hero,” who becomes uglier as time passes.
Pyeongchang’s good fight came as a breath of fresh air to Koreans, who live with the uncertainty of the North Korean nuclear problem, which seems to defy resolution, an economy that shows few signs of recovering and interest groups in daily discord.
An ad hoc parliamentary committee held a plenary meeting Wednesday to start an investigation into allegations that Mr. Kim sabotaged Pyeongchang’s bid. I hope the committee will be able to find out the exact reason Pyeongchang did not win the games. Also, the panel must address allegations of a tie between Mr. Kim’s election as vice president of the Olympic committee and its choice of a venue and whether he campaigned against Pyeongchang.
I do not think there are clear answers to any of these questions. Mr. Kim is not likely to reveal the details of his activities because members of the Olympic committee are barred from conducting campaigns for a city to host the Olympic games, and if Mr. Kim violates this rule, he will be kicked off the panel. Proving allegations of wrongdoing against a committee member solely on circumstantial evidence is no easy task. It is also difficult to investigate any or all 126 panel members.
But what really concerns me is not the displeasure due to the hopelessness that the full truth of the scandal will never be found, but the “cartel of silence” imbedded in our society. At the center of the allegations against Mr. Kim, which span from his “unenthusiastic attitude toward the bidding” to “his entering the race for the vice presidency thwarted the bid” to “his personal corruption,” there is an indication that we had known that the “emperor of sports circle” was besieged with problems. If our society had given him a clear warning earlier, might not we have avoided the disgrace he has brought on our country? More deplorably, preoccupied with making someone a “scapegoat,” in our society, there is no sign of making any effort to establish a proper basis for conducting sports diplomacy.
“The Kim Un-yong repercussions” show how risky it is to depend on an emperor in any field. While claiming to be the 12th largest economy in the world, our country has an extremely weak pool of competent people who can voice their opinions and operate successfully in the international arena. This is due to the lack of a nationwide personnel management policy in which experts in international relations are trained and utilized as members of a pool. It is even more difficult to find a talented person because even the few competent people are divided according to the presidential administration they belong to or the beliefs that they share.
Another problem is our society’s view that sees lobbying as a cure-all. We are witnessing that such blind belief as “All roads lead to lobbying” eventually provided soil for breeding insidious emperors. Our society should go back, as soon as possible, to the principle that establishing an objective ground for sports diplomacy is the greatest power. Such miracles as holding the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and playing co-host to the 2002 World Cup with Japan are not an everyday affair.
The “Kim Un-yong scandal” should not be prolonged. The sooner it is resolved, the better. There are already some signs that the confusion over Pyeongchang and Mooju is recurring over a subsequent Korean bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
We should not default our dream for the 2014 games to another country because of the internal division. We should no longer love an “emperor.” Four years is a long time to come up with a strategy to win the next bid -- without an emperor.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Hong Eun-hee