[OUTLOOK]Everybody has one shot to takeTwenty-six years ago last Thursday, the WBA Junior featherweight champion title match was televised in Korea from halfway around the world in Panama City. Not long after the black-and-white broadcast started, the whole country rumbled ― a rumble that was soon followed by a cheer. Hong Soo-hwan, even after going down four times in two rounds to Hector Carrasquilla, came back for a dramatic knockout victory just 48 seconds into the third round. It was the making of the legend of “four downs and five up.” The fervor and emotion of public attention was such that the match was shown on television 27 times that day.
But the legend of “four downs and five up” did not last long before fading. After the title match in Panama City, drunk with money and fame, the boxer lost his “hungry” spirit, spending more time with a famous female singer than in the boxing ring. In the end, Mr. Hong failed to defend his title and was shunned by disappointed fans. Later, he left abruptly for the United States after splitting with the singer. (He had divorced his first wife to marry her.) After spending an uneventful decade in the United States, Mr. Hong returned to Korea to try his luck in business, unsuccessfully.
Mr. Hong once gave a lecture to a group about his life experience. His eloquence carried as much force as his fists and until this day, Mr. Hong has given more than 700 lectures. He also published a book recently, aptly titled “Everyone Has Their One Shot.”
There is a person who reminds this writer of Mr. Hong the boxer, and that is President Roh Moo-hyun. Mr. Roh has also reached his present position as the protagonist in a legend of achieving success after four failures. Mr. Roh was elected president after having lost the mayoral race for Busan and three elections for the National Assembly. Mr. Roh “divorced” his first party, the Millennium Democratic Party to form a political alliance with the younger Our Open Party. He has also lost the support of his once-fervent fans, the laborers and the farmers.
The fact that President Roh said he was willing to leave without any regrets should he fail to win his proposed vote of confidence is also reminiscent of Mr. Hong leaving for the United States without looking back. The 11 months in the Blue House that must have felt like 10 years to Mr. Roh seem not much better than the 10 years that Mr. Hong had spent without any direction in life, making a living as a taxi driver in the United States. The situation in Buan concerning the nuclear waste facility, the debate over dispatch of Korean troops to Iraq, the transfer of the administrative capital, the high-speed railroad project and the national pension woes are all issues that are blowing in the wind without any direction.
Amidst this confusion, our society has lost its focus while everyone screams out opinion and raises fists as if to solve every problem through “one shots.” With college entrance applicants threatening group actions over the claim that there was more than one correct answer to a question in this year’s nationwide college entrance exam, what more is there to say?
When Mr. Hong came back to Korea, he found it difficult to start a business. Like Mr. Hong, President Roh must find it difficult to act, trapped among a de facto government party and three opposition parties. Perhaps that is why Mr. Roh is aiming his “one shot” and betting his everything on next year’s legislative elections. The president’s veto of a special counsel bill concerning alleged corruption of his former aides looked like a tactic, taking into calculation the schedule of the legislative election. The president seems not to care about anything else other than his “one shot” in next year’s election no matter whether the opposition decides to boycott the National Assembly to protest the president’s veto power, what happens in Buan, whether farmers commit suicide, laborers set fire to themselves or credit delinquents rise in number.
However, the president is not the only one with “one shot.” The opposition party, the Buan residents, the farmers, the laborers, even the college entrance exam applicants have their own “one shots.” The Grand National Party has already refused to attend the Assembly, demanding that the president withdraw his veto of the special counsel bill. Now that everybody from the president to the opposition leader aims to use their one shots, the whole society is going crazy.
Things cannot go on this way. The president should start by throwing away his hopes for a “one shot” victory. He should withdraw his veto of the special counsel bill and declare a moratorium on political fights for the five months until the Assembly elections. Afterwards, the government should solve the national problems that litter the landscape. When that is done, the administration should await the judgment of the people. This is the way of nature and the way to save an entire country from going mad.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong