[GLOBAL EYE]Time for some harmonic chordsWhat happens when a car signals a left turn and then turns right or goes straight? Now that President Roh Moo-hyun has spent almost a year in office, his report card shows a mixed evaluation. But the most notable are the regrets and grumbles coming from progressive and reform-minded voices, Mr. Roh’s core supporters.
If the left-turn signal was a progressive strategy, turning to the right symbolizes a realistic change in tactics. As the “participatory government” compromised with reality, Mr. Roh’s supporters were disappointed to see the stalled reform efforts. But the comparison is applicable beyond the progressive-vs.-conservative boundary to the overall governance of this administration.
The Professors’ Newspaper chose “lost and confused” as the phrase best describing the current political, economic and social situation in Korea.
The Roh administration produced numerous blueprints and road maps. But if the driver is lost and confused, the road maps are not much of a help. At the grand crossroads of the international community, the vehicle called Korea does not seem to know the direction and the passengers are getting increasingly insecure.
Last week, Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan prayed for wisdom for the captain and the navigator of the ship as the country drifts in a storm. Debating and arguing over the direction will not take the ship anywhere unless the captain has a clear vision. Even in the United States, where the Congress has enormous power, the Congress does not take the initiative in diplomacy.
Depending on its interests, Congress responds to, criticizes or pressures the president on foreign policies. But ultimately, the chief executive has to lead the diplomatic team and persuade the Congress and the citizens to go along with him.
The second troop dispatch to Iraq is the most notable case of making a right turn with a left-turn signal. Although many civic groups evaluated the sending of the troops as Mr. Roh’s major blunder of his first year, the decision was a wise one for the bigger frame of the national interest, the alliance between Korea and the United States.
It would be reasonable to leave the debate over the justification of the war behind and pursue the national interest by contributing to the efforts for the reconstruction and stabilization of Iraq.
If the Our Open Party is a ruling party in the true sense, the party’s members should take the lead in passing the bill in the Assembly to help the president. Balancing the lopsided Korea-U.S. relations is a long-term task, and maximizing our interests in the unequal frame is pragmatic diplomacy. When the world is divided by “selective alliances,” justification and self-reliance guarantee neither security nor bread.
The president is lowering himself to stand on a position that could be criticized by anyone, and the transformation makes the country look more confused. But the president’s personal style and administrative leadership are two different matters.
Former president Bill Clinton was known to shop at a bookstore in Washington D.C. with his daughter Chelsea and eat at a hamburger joint. When Mr. Roh said as president-elect that he went to a public bathhouse because the hot water at his house did not work well, the older generation was impressed that they finally had met a president who understood the life of grass-roots people.
How did they feel watching the corruption cases that resulted in many of Mr. Roh’s aides going to prison this year?
According to a recent opinion poll by MBC, the Munhwa Broadcasting Company, 40 percent of the voters who supported Mr. Roh in the presidential election said they regretted their decision. The politics of “codes” resulted in clique politics, and the chaos in the past year is the evidence.
Why not try the politics of a “chord,” a harmonious ensemble of different instruments?
* The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Byun Sang-keun