[INSIGHT]Put reason before emotion

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[INSIGHT]Put reason before emotion

The impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun by the National Assembly on March 12 is certainly a disgrace to our whole nation. Because the result is unhappy, there can be no winners but only losers. What the losers should do first of all is reflect deeply with a humble attitude.
The opposition party pointed out three reasons for the impeachment. These were the president’s misgovernment during the past year, his close aides’ corruption and his violation of election law that requires his neutrality in the legislative elections. The president should humbly reflect on these three charges. According to the principle of politics that fair and just personnel appointments will lead everything to success, Mr. Roh should reflect on whether he fairly appointed competent people throughout the country, transcending his personal sentiments.
Every time the administration is changed, there have been countless corruption incidents committed by the president’s close aides. President Roh should cool-headedly reflect on whether he learned any lessons from these historical facts and whether he showed any firm attitude against corruption with heavy punishment to warn against a recurrence. He also should reflect on whether he made any remarks which led to the accusations from the opposition parties that he violated election law.
The opposition parties that submitted the impeachment bill should also reflect. Lawmakers from the opposition parties should consider whether they were reluctant to cooperate with the president from a larger perspective when the inexperienced young president tried to seek political ways of his own for the national interest. They should reflect from a fair perspective on whether they made hasty and severe criticisms instead of patiently watching what results the new president’s attempts would bring.
Considering that corruption scandals of the president’s close aides have occurred frequently in the past as well, the opposition should examine whether the corruption of President Roh’s aides was especially serious enough to warrant impeaching him. They should have carefully considered if they could say definitely that the president’s remarks violated election law. What is most important is whether they sincerely thought about the impact of the unprecedented presidential impeachment on the national interest. What is very heart-rending is that the presidential impeachment is clearly an incident that is more likely to happen in underdeveloped countries.
As is the case in underdeveloped countries, the justification for the impeachment was insufficient and lawmakers made little effort to prevent the impeachment through dialogue. In addition to the shameful scene of lawmakers’ violent fighting around the podium of the Assembly speaker, the masses were staging a demonstration, divided into pros and cons over the impeachment outside the Assembly where the political parties were wrangling with each other.
The three major broadcasters repeatedly aired the disgraceful scenes around the world for two days. Korea, which had talked about being a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and set a goal of a $20,000 per capita income, was suddenly known to the world as a retarded country. The resulting damage will be immense.
The approval of the impeachment bill is doubtlessly a failure. We should not simply accept this failure as it is but take this opportunity to turn the misfortune into a blessing by learning from the failure. I think the fundamental cause of this failure lies in the disposition of Korean people to rely more on emotion than reason. Because we skip the process of thinking calmly according to reason and just decide on our course of action according to our feelings, we are prone to be engulfed in violent emotions and sympathetic with the mob.
An information age, dominated by state-of-the-art technology, is an age of international competition where the winners and losers are decided according to competition among brains. Although the problem cannot be fixed in a short term, we should make every effort to build a national character that makes the best use of the power of cool-headed thinking, so that we may have the passion and the balance to survive in a new age.
More importantly, we should take this opportunity to reform our political climate fundamentally. Reflecting on the fact that the accusations about huge campaign funds handed over in the last presidential election were closely related to the impeachment, the ruling and opposition parties should unite to work for clean politics from now on. Both the people and the politicians should concentrate their efforts to lay a framework for mature politics that puts reason before emotion.

* The writer, a professor emeritus at Seoul National University, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Tae-gil
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