[OUTLOOK]The president’s overhasty actsFor the first time in our constitutional history, the National Assembly passed a motion to impeach the president, stripping President Roh Moo-hyun of his constitutional powers. This is a shocking event. With all the issues and problems before us, both domestically and internationally, what is to happen to our country? We have never been so uncertain of our fate before.
Did the president indeed commit such a serious act of misrule as to justify being impeached? The voting process on the impeachment was fearsome, reminding one of the horrid abuses of power during the military governments of the past when force ruled over everything else. This dramatic rupture in our government, however, was merely the surfacing of something deeper. For the past year, our country has been plagued by strife and division, void of any national unity or conciliation.
Mr. Roh, hailing from a poor background and with no major ties to established political lines, became the youngest person to be elected president in our history. During his first year in office, President Roh consistently called for reforms to abolish “old politics” and carried out many measures to that effect. But many of the president’s reforms were considered overly zealous by the conservatives and were checked from the beginning of his term. A majority opposition party that has lost a good chance to regain power would say anything.
Even if the president had committed no crime but “the original sin of getting elected,” as he described it, he was chosen to lead the country by the people. Then he, as the winner, should have shown less hostility to the defeated and should have had the magnanimity to embrace them, even though they committed “bigger” violations of election laws, as partners in reforming politics and managing the state. If the president hadn’t shown such open disdain for his political opponents, they wouldn’t have tried to trip him up at every turn as they did.
The decisive factor that brought the impeachment motion was the president and Our Open Party’s overhasty effort to label the Millennium Democratic Party as a “regional party” and isolate it as such. Even if the Millennium Democrats were proving to be an obstacle to the president’s reforms, they had once worked arduously to get him elected since he had run as their candidate.
It was the little huffs and puffs of the Millennium Democrats that provided the momentum for the “Rohphoon” to take off shortly before and during the presidential election. Considering that the government party would only remain a minority in the National Assembly, it would also have been a wiser political decision for the president to take the Millennium Democrats as allies and partners in his political reforms.
The president has four years left and that is not a short period of time. He could have pursued his reforms a little more prudently and broken an alliance with the Millennium Democratic Party later if things did not turn out so well.
Unfortunately, the president did not do so and as a result, his old party was the first to attack him and the first to motion his impeachment. Theirs was not a rational decision based on an objective assessment of the president’s qualifications and the consequences of his absence, but the strike of revenge for what they saw as a betrayal.
With matters standing as they do, here is a word of note on the president’s propensity to speak out. Faith in oneself and motivation seem to be the strong points of anyone who has overcome a difficult childhood to grow up and become successful. They do not run from their problems, they do not compromise. They go for the showdown. That honesty, that straightforwardness comes from self-confidence: “I can overcome any obstacle to achieve what I believe in because that’s how I’ve lived to reach today.”
Such self-confidence helped the president succeed in his life. He shows his feelings frankly in any place. Even his rash slips of the tongue were received fairly well by the public for they showed that he was a “commoner,” free and easy, unlike the authoritative figures of other presidents in the past.
This president, however, seems to have too much self-confidence and this has led him to make highly undesirable “gambles” with his political life on several occasions in his eagerness to prove his moral superiority. His proposal of a referendum on his rule and his offer to step down if his election camp had used more than one-tenth of what the Grand National Party had used in illegal funds were all irresponsible promises coming from a man who holds the fate of a country in his hands.
Rather than boasting of his honesty and confidence that he is not obsessed with the position of president, Mr. Roh should have shown that he was determined to fulfill his duties for the country and the people for the next four years as the elected president. In an announcement released Thursday, the president curtly said that he “will not apologize for violating the election laws even if [he] had to give up the presidential seat,” and it resulted in bringing about the passage of the impeachment motion.
It is now too late to talk about who was wrong or right in the past. What is important is how we can overcome this difficult situation. This emotional and severe standoff between the conservatives and progressivists must stop. Above all, the politicians should show a sense of responsibility. They should refrain from any reckless deeds or words that would aggravate the situation for the sake of the future of this country. It is time for us to demonstrate our ability to overcome difficulties by reconciling among ourselves and accepting one another on the path to coexistence.
* The writer is a novelist. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Won-il