[FORUM]An open letter to Choe Byung-yul

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[FORUM]An open letter to Choe Byung-yul

Dear Mr. Chairman:
Today marks the sixth day of your hunger strike. Ordinary people feel dizzy after going without food even for a day. I am sorry to see you, well over 60, choosing the extreme move of fasting. But I dare say your choice looks like a show to me.
You may ask, “Isn’t it politics?” But our present situation is not so leisurely as to entitle you to begin a hunger strike. I hear there are 1,200 matters that need to be dealt with urgently by the National Assembly. Your hunger strike and the majority Grand National Party legislators’ refusal to attend Assembly sessions can hardly escape criticism as being political shows in which state affairs are held hostage. The opinion polls conducted on the day you started your hunger strike show how the public feels.
According to the surveys by Korea Broadcasting System and Munhwa Broadcasting Corp., many more people thought it was wrong for the Grand National Party “to stage an all-out strike in the Assembly” (67 percent to 71 percent) than for President Roh to veto an independent counsel bill (50.4 percent to 54.6 percent).
You explained, “As the chairman of the majority opposition party, I couldn’t just sit watching the behavior of the President, who ruins the country and impoverishes the people.” Is that why you chose a hunger strike and abnormal running of the National Assembly? It is a despairing reality that the choice of the majority opposition party should be to resort to such extreme measures. Why couldn’t you boldly choose to square up to the president? Whether it was right or wrong, President Roh’s veto of an independent counsel bill was done under the presidential authority prescribed by law. If you could not tolerate his behavior, didn’t you have only to do as provided in the law? The opposition party should have rightly chosen to vote on the bill again by persuading the Millennium Democratic Party and the United Liberal Democratic Party.
But you turned that option down and chose to launch a full-scale out-of-the-Assembly struggle against the president. Consequently, people criticize your choice of action in various ways: that it is a tactic to interrupt the prosecution’s investigation into political campaign funding; that it is a ploy to reinforce your control within the party before the legislative election; or that it is an expedient to open a special session, immediately followed by the regular session, to shield the accused lawmakers from being summoned by the prosecution.
Your choice is a neglection of your duty and an act of destroying state affairs. You seem to have no room for making any excuse even if you are ridiculed by Mr. Roh as leading “the majority opposition party’s illegal strike.” The people are fed up with politicians, who are engaged in partisan strife, putting aside the pending issues of national administration, ranging from the troop deployment to Iraq to the ratification of a Korea-Chile free trade agreement, the opposition to building a nuclear waste disposal facility, political reforms and the problem of 3.6 million credit card defaulters.
Since the “participatory government” took office, nothing has gone well. The people are losing their hope. That is why the role of the majority Grand National Party is important. At this point, if you show a responsible attitude in which political tactics are one thing and state affairs are another, the people will think again about the Grand National Party. Nothing will be a more effective strategy for the April legislative election than that.
In fact, beginning with your immature response to the critical move of President Roh’s proposal for a vote of confidence, you have repeated a wrong move, Mr. Chairman. What do you think has caused you to repeatedly make such senseless political mistakes that could have been avoided if you thought once again and took public sentiments into account? Wasn’t it because of your preoccupation with power?
You may attach political significance to your hunger strike, but some people regard fasting as a kind of moral training or healing. They say fasting has the effect of healing diseases by clearing the mind and ridding the body of impurities. Seeing that you have started fasting, I pray you may enjoy the effect of moral training and healing.
I also expect this will be an opportunity for you to train your distracted mind and heart in the world of transient power to be born again as a responsible leader of a political party. I wish you good health, Mr. Chairman.

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

by Bae Myung-bok
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