[OUTLOOK]Destructive self-defense

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[OUTLOOK]Destructive self-defense

In her book “Understanding Men’s Passages,” Gail Sheehy, whose more famous works include a biography of Hillary Clinton, writes that people who are at a crisis are prone to fall into the temptation of “destructive self-defense.”
There seem to be many cases in our politics when acts of self-defense actually become acts of self-destruction. In particular, the behavior of the so-called “farm party” lawmakers in deterring the ratification of the free trade agreement with Chile is a good case of destructive self-defense.
Without even having a proper grasp of the National Assembly regulations, the legislators are raising their voices against the ratification with some unpersuasive logic. Their actions seem motivated by their desire to appeal to the voters in the April legislative elections, but their act of “self-defense” is bringing quite the opposite results.
Beside the criticism that they are receiving for their selfish behavior, it is estimated that the legislators have caused an immediate loss of over 40 billion won ($33 million) for the country by delaying the ratification of the free trade agreement.
Another example of destructive self-defense is Chang Young-dal, the chairman of the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee.
Mr. Chang has delayed the work of the committee almost intentionally. Then he arrived late for a session and voted against the dispatch of additional troops to Iraq. As a member of the president’s party, it is highly improper of Mr. Chang to act against the policy that the president has already decided upon and the National Defense Ministry has planned.
Mr. Chang’s actions are also irresponsible in that they could bring grave military and diplomatic consequences.
The National Assembly members who passed the bill requesting the release of Suh Chung-won also engaged in destructive self-defense. Mr. Suh is free, at least until March 2 when this extraordinary Assembly session adjourns. But his release can be called nothing but a “political jailbreak.”
The public’s fury over the legislators’ decision has moved a civic group to start a campaign to press the political parties not to nominate the legislators who led the motion for Mr. Suh’s release.
Recently, the prosecutors have discovered that at least 7.3 billion won ($6.3 million) of 16.7 billion won that Chun Jae-yong, the second son of former President Chun Doo Hwan, claimed to have received as an inheritance from his maternal grandfather was actually part of the secret fortune amassed by his father, the former president. At this point, it is hard to understand how Mr. Chun can be so preoccupied about defending himself when his own son is about to go to jail.
Chun Doo Hwan’s destructive self-defense began when he made the ridiculous claim that he possessed only a little over 290,000 won in cash.
He might have succeeded in keeping part of his money by using his son’s name and even the name of a homeless person, but in the end, Mr. Chun has only besmirched his reputation and position as a former president further.
His act is all the more destructive because it is speeding up the crash and fall of authority in Korean society.
Former President Kim Young-sam is another example. One even wanted to ask him just what it had been that he was so desperately trying to protect by turning Kang Sam-jae, the most faithful of all faithful aides, into a traitor, and by making Mr. Kang and Kim Gi-seop, then a deputy director of the intelligence agency, turn against each other. Stubborn silence under these circumstances is nothing but destructive self-defense.
Now would be a good time to let everything out and just be done with it.
The reckless behavior of Min Gyeong-chan, the distant relative of President Roh Moo-hyun, is a classical example of destructive self-defense.
Mr. Min bragged publicly that he had amassed a fund of 65.3 billion won ($55 million). When he was detained by police investigators, he confessed that he had been lying about the funds.
But now Mr. Min has told a news magazine that he had consulted previously with the Blue House about the fund and was advised to keep the number of his investors to around 40. The magazine claimed that it had a recording of this interview with Mr. Min.
We have yet to discover whether Mr. Min is a liar and crook extraordinaire or the loose detonator of a political bomb that may explode with no notice. Nevertheless, Mr. Min’s self-defense measures have landed a heavy blow not only on his own reputation but on the Blue House as well.
People are tired of the acts of destructive self-defense committed by politicians who get into hot water.
Is it too naive to still hope for a politics based on “constructive self-belief” that one can really relate to, instead of politics peppered with excuses, demagoguery and strange incidents?

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


by Chung Jin-hong
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