[OUTLOOK]A little luck never hurt a leader

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[OUTLOOK]A little luck never hurt a leader

It’s been said that a man needs three things to succeed: luck, tenacity and spirit. A person does not succeed by abilities only. There is an element of luck in success. One needs to be there at the appropriate time and one needs to meet the right kind of people. But luck is not the only factor. Luck takes its time in arriving and until then, one needs to get by with tenacity and spirit.
President Roh Moo-hyun is a lucky man. This is not to say that he is an incompetent man who’s relied on luck to get where he is. Nevertheless, fortune seems to have smiled on Mr. Roh so far. It was kind to him during the primary elections for the presidential nomination last year. It was kind to him when he was able to form a joint candidacy with an independent candidate, Chung Mong-joon, and when, despite Mr. Chung’s public withdrawal of his support for Mr. Roh one day before the election, he still won.
Luck, however, is like the tide of the sea. It comes and goes as it pleases. Sometimes it imposes itself on us with formidable force allowing us to do whatever we please. Other times, luck leaves us high and dry, incapable of doing anything right.
It seems that President Roh is running low of luck these days. It seems that nothing he does seems to work out these days. After being slapped on one cheek by the typhoon, Mr. Roh turned to find his other cheek being slapped by the plummeting exchange rate. The public doesn’t seem to like him. The economy doesn’t seem to like him. The governing party was split into two, with a new party forming out of the original but that has only left the government without a governing party.
There are times when President Roh needs to call upon his tenacity and wait for fortune to smile again. Unfortunately, the president is still as touchy and hasty as he has always been. Patience is not among Mr. Roh’s virtues. Mr. Roh is as outright and unreserved as his talk. Thus, the president has found himself the subject of censure for one reason or other and we have found the heated conflict between the president and the critics pervading the entire society during the last six months. As a result, the president who should be encouraging and upholding the national unity has always found himself in the center of strife and conflict.
Mr. Roh does not seem to enjoy “time-outs.” There isn’t much that he lets pass by without intervening. He always says what’s on his mind. Some say that’s his charm. Charm or not, this frankness has often caused trouble. Fewer words and less feisty ones would be a simple but essential prescription for the president himself and the country to regain some peace.
The president not only needs to take it easy speed-wise but in his attitude toward the media and public opinion. A president who respects public opinion is a good president. But a president who can lead the way for the nation while remaining unimpassioned and unmoved by public opinion is a great president.
Governance boils down to making decisions. In governing a country, the leaders need to make a decision when a decision needs to be made. Sadly, decisions are the last things being made in this country right now. The nuclear waste facility that was to be built in the province of Buan, the tunnel that was to go through Mount Sapae as part of a highway belt around Seoul, and the Gyeongin Canal that was to connect western Seoul with the Incheon seaside are all projects that are stuck halfway because the government is stalling decisions because of the public debate and criticism. In his oversensitivity to gaining popularity, the president has left off making policies. The president had the latitude of mind to attend a musical on the day Typhoon Maemi struck the country, so why is he so sensitive about the press and public opinion?
These are difficult times for our country. Our country will need tenacity and spirit in waiting for our luck to turn. Tenacity is different from obstinacy, as our president has yet to learn. When the leaders of various religious groups recently visited the president to persuade him to reconcile with the media, he refused adamantly. That is obstinacy. The president is the authority. He is the supreme authority of the country at that. When the authority is obstinate, it is the people that suffer the consequences sometimes to dismal depths. If the president truly wants “politics of tolerance” and an end to the “emotional politics,” he should change himself first.
An enterprise gets as big as the caliber of the entrepreneur. In the same way, a country gets as big as the caliber of the president.
Let’s hope that Mr. Roh thinks over the meanings of luck, tenacity and spirit so that he can become a president that makes his country grow bigger instead of one that splits it to pieces.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Chung Jin-hong
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