[OUTLOOK]Give politicians a tranquilizerThere is an old Chinese saying that the praying mantis preys on the cicada. It is used to describe someone who is so obsessed with the matter before him that he does not think of the consequences that will follow. In “Seolwon,” a book compiling ancient Chinese sayings, there is a story about how this saying came to be. One day Bucha, the king of Oh, was strolling in his garden. He met his son U, whose clothes were all wet and who looked confused. Bucha asked the prince what had happened. The prince replied, “Today when I came out into the garden early in the morning, there was a cicada humming high on a tree branch. I looked behind and saw a praying mantis poised to leap at the cicada. Then a sparrow flew in and landed on the branch to catch the praying mantis, which the praying mantis was unaware of. I was so fascinated by this that I didn’t pay attention to where I was going and fell into the pond. That is how I ended up all soaked.”
President Roh Moo-hyun’s sudden call for a vote of confidence is like the praying mantis aiming at the loudly singing cicada. The Grand National Party leader, Choe Byung-yul, declared that his party would call for the impeachment of the president should there be any direct links between him and the corruption scandals of his aides. That was like the sparrow waiting to catch the praying mantis aiming at the cicada. Moreover, the public watching the developments on the confidence vote issue are about to fall into chaos, miserably lost and anxious in a pond of uncertainty.
With the whole country buzzing about votes of confidence and impeachment, we are in a sorry state.
Regardless of the party to which they belong, all legislators at the National Assembly are so busy following the development of the proposed vote of confidence that the second bill needed to provide relief to the victims of Typhoon Maemi is still waiting to be passed. No one is attending the Assembly sessions.
With consumer confidence at its lowest since the financial crisis in 1997, important issues on welfare that need to be addressed urgently are drifting in the confusion over the confidence vote. It is reported that government offices and bureaucrats are also in a state of waiting, “arms folded and lying low.”
If President Roh’s proposed vote of confidence occurs, the present ministers would have to step down next February whether they liked it or not ― should the president lose the vote, the new president would throw them out; even if he wins, he has promised a complete revamp of the cabinet and the Blue House staff.
Amid all this confusion, there is additional squabbling over whether the vote of confidence by a popular vote is constitutional or not. There could possibly be a suit alleging unconstitutionality and a court ruling before the vote of confidence.
Moreover, even if the vote of confidence is held by referendum, neither side seems ready to accept the results docilely. The president sent a personal letter to his private fan club, the Nosamo, and the fan club has publicly vowed to be his “Red Guards” and start a second “Roh-phoon” like the one witnessed during the presidential primaries and the presidential election last year. It looks unlikely that a single vote of confidence would solve the conflict between the pro-Roh and anti-Roh factions in society and open a new era of public unity.
The economy is in a difficult situation and college graduates are unable to find jobs. It is hard to understand just what good there is to be expected by holding this vote of confidence. Is it an inability to bear any moral blemish caused by the corruption of those surrounding him? Is it a determination to impute the current troubles to the opposition party and the media, which the president claims are holding him back in everything he does? If the only reason the president wants to hold this vote of confidence, using 100 billion won ($87 million) of tax money, is to clarify a 1.1 billion won corruption scandal involving his aide, the public would feel much more assuaged if he just handed back this money.
The fact is that the support rate for the president is crawling on the floor, yet surveys show that most people would vote to support him. That is a sign of the public’s desire for stability. Therefore, neither the president nor the opposition parties should do anything to shake up the public again. The public has it hard enough living day by day already. What we want is neither a vote of confidence nor impeachment. What we want is stability.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong