[GLOBAL EYE]Many problems, no statesmenOur recent situation is being given grim coverage by the international media. Last week, the Financial Times began its special report on Korea with the headline “A country split between optimism and pessimism,” followed by a sub-headline, “In the streets once filled with the 2002 World Cup partymakers are now labor strikes and demonstrations.” Headlines such as “Korea on strike,” “Korea in political strife,” or even “Korea under anarchy” are familiar.
We may tolerate the situation, thinking that voicing opinions of interest groups itself represents democratization, diversification and transitional pain, although chaotic, to be a mature society. But there should be harmony and balance as a whole in order for the society to be dynamic and to have a driving force for progress. If each group is preoccupied with pursuing its own interests, it will only lead to the destruction of all.
But we are under the pressure of five unfavorable trends. As manifested in the farmers’ rallies surrounding a free trade agreement with Chile and the opposition to building a nuclear disposal facility in Buan, our ability to coordinate domestic interests is so lacking that even the international community is concerned. Due to the hostile labor unions, the investment environment is growing worse, so foreign investors are avoiding further investment in Korea.
Because national opinion was divided over the issue of the troop deployment to Iraq, the government was at a loss in policymaking. As a result, the future of the alliance between Korea and the United States has become uncertain. The proliferation of bad credit risks and the liquidity crisis of credit card companies threatens to downgrade our international credit standing. As the investigation into political campaign funding has expanded to include businesses, business activity has shrunk and the transparency of Korean businesses is again in question. With the shift of administrations, the chain of corruption should have been broken but now seems to be the worst ever. Moreover, the North Korean nuclear problem is always looming over our country.
Politics is the ability to coordinate conflicting interests. But only followers of interest groups and public opinion are swarming in the political community and it is hard to find leaders who, with the courage to be criticized, will come forward to persuade the public and lead public opinion. As politicians, political parties, and the Blue House are all out to find strategies for the legislative elections, statecraft is missing.
Both reform and autonomy are fine. But more important, their goals and directions should be set properly and be clear to the people. Also, specific means and methods to realize those goals and directions should be outlined. There are no national tasks more urgent than those of what to do for a living, how to re-establish foreign relations and how to achieve domestic and social unity. Above all, the government should clear up the confusion over the keynote of economic policy, that is, whether to pursue growth or distribution, and then establish a new strategy for growth and name administrators who will implement that strategy. How will the government untangle the twisted relations between Korea and the United States resulting from the troop deployment problem and fill the strategic vacuum resulting from the relocation of the U. S. forces stationed in Korea? How will the present administration build a system which reflects all interests institutionally and creates new labor-management cooperation based on a social agreement? There is little time to find detailed solutions for these problems alone.
The French hero Charles de Gaulle was quoted as saying, “France needs a crisis. Without it, there’s no way to unite this country, which makes 265 varieties of cheese.” To de Gaulle, a crisis was an opportunity, and what made the difference was his vision of “the glory of France.” The experiment of state affairs by persons that share the same narrow ideology should be ended now. National administration and leadership for genuine reform means appointing experts and letting them do what they know best.
The political deadlock in which the president seeks a vote of confidence should be broken by the reform of national administration based on a national vision. If, setting aside state affairs, the government is absorbed in political tactics to win votes in the legislative election, I am afraid that a situation may develop where the Republic of Korea loses the confidence of the international community.
* The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Byun Sang-keun