[FORUM]A blessing in disguise?Many foreign experts called the financial crisis that hit Korea in 1997 a “blessing in disguise” for the country. While those who suffered because of the crisis may not agree, it is true that the crisis was an opportunity for us to reform our national economic structure.
Could we, likewise, expect an opportunity to rise from the political crisis we are undergoing right now with the impeachment of the president? It is possible if the politicians and the people reflect on themselves and work hard.
This political crisis was the result of a clash between the president and the opposition parties in their greed to win the legislative elections. If both sides humbly accept the criticism and advice of all sectors of society and are willing to yield and compromise, this could become an opportunity to stabilize and develop our politics. If, on the other hand, the president and the opposition parties do not forgo their greed and egotism and carry on with their strategies to abuse this situation to enlarge their power, this political vacuum and national strife will only grow worse.
The more difficult the times are, the more the people desire politicians with a conscience and courage. Many people recall the name of Edmund G. Ross, a former U.S. senator, in association with a presidential impeachment. At the impeachment trial of U.S. President Andrew Johnson in 1868, Mr. Ross voted against the impeachment motion despite the appeals of his party members, the pressure of public opinion and threats by members of his constituency. He cast his vote according to his conscience, thinking about the future of his country, and the impeachment motion failed by one vote.
As was predicted, Mr. Ross had to endure many difficulties and the faltering of his political career afterwards. He lost his re-election bid and had to leave his home town.
U.S. President John F. Kennedy, in his book “Profiles in Courage,” praises Edward Ross for acting unwaveringly in the face of public opinion and partisan politics to do what he felt was in the long-term interests of his country. If only Korea, too, could see more people like Edward Ross during this ordeal, it would be a great help to the development of our politics and country.
I hope this crisis will become an opportunity for our people to mature in their political awareness and action. Even when a crisis occurs, we should not act rashly and thoughtlessly, but calmly watch the problem being solved through procedures set by the law and accept the results. This is what people in advanced democratic societies do. We must refrain from rushing out onto the streets, ruled by passion rather than reason, to either protest or support the impeachment. That would only lead to a violent clash.
What actually worries me is not the public but certain leaders and intellectuals. While the people are fast regaining their composure, the leaders and intellectuals seem busy mobilizing people and cause more confusion.
There are some rough-talking individuals among the intellectuals who appear on television debate shows these days. They ignore the basic rules and etiquette of debate, cutting in when their counterparts are talking and going over their given time to browbeat. Why are these people without the slightest clue trying to teach others, when they should be learning themselves first? Why do we allow this to keep on happening?
I believe our people are now quite capable of judging which politicians and intellectuals pursue their own or their factions’ interests. We must show judgment at this general election. If we do, the impeachment that everyone considers a misfortune will take off its disguise and come to us as a blessing.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Roh Sung-tae