[INSIGHT]Political power and stabilityPower is inherently neutral. Power itself is not a value. It becomes a value only when it is used for a good cause and a poison if used in bad ways. It is all the same with power whether emanating from money, authority or military leverage. It is said one can never have enough money but if one spends it wastefully and squanders it all, money only becomes a poison to oneself. Military leverage is valuable when used to keep peace but it can become a disaster if used by robbers or terrorists. It is the same with authority. There are numerous examples of people who were in authority only to come down crashing in history. Authority can make revered kings and leaders but it could also make tyrants and despots.
The Roh Moo-hyun administration and Our Open Party has finally won the majority of the seats in the National Assembly. National Assembly seats are also a source of power. When used wisely, they become valuable. When abused, they could bring disaster. The scalding consequence that the opposition met with when it used its majority to impeach the president is a good example. Now it is the Roh administration’s turn to answer the question to how they are going to use their newly acquired “power” of being the majority party. The people have been paying attention as soon as the general election ballot counting was over. They are waiting to see where the new authorities will go and what they will do. The government party leaders have repeatedly emphasized their determination to practice “co-existence politics” and to attend to the needs of public welfare. However, more is needed than just empty campaign slogans. We urgently need a vision of the direction that the authorities in power will devote their minds and efforts in managing the state. This vision will enable the people to prepare themselves. Those who want to invest, according to this vision, will invest and those who want to veer into another direction will do so. When the government party presents its direction, a healthy debate will form in society and in the political community, setting society back on track to a new normalcy after the legislative elections.
The National Assembly election this year attracted particular attention because it is the first time in Korean history that a progressive party has taken over the National Assembly and no one quite knows what changes to expect. After the legislative elections, the acting president quickly announced that there would be no “sharp left turns” in the government policies and that there were no changes in the foreign and economic policies. However, the people know that power is no longer with the acting president. The announcement was not made through consultations with the new authorities, either. People are looking toward the Blue House, whose office has been halted, and the new government party rather than the present government. They are paying closer attention to newly surfacing issues such as a legislative meeting with North Korea and the re-examination of the dispatch of Korean troops to Iraq. They are trying to find hints from comments made by a newly-elected man who suggested that we cut our defense budget in half and spend the money on school meals instead.
The deputy prime minister, who is also the minister of finance and economy, has said that the government will still pursue growth as a central goal but 62 percent of the lawmakers elected from the government party replied in a survey by a TV channel that they felt distribution of wealth was more important.
The acting government greeted visiting U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and told him that there would be no changes in our foreign policies but a newspaper survey showed that 55 percent of the newly elected first-time lawmakers thought that China was the country to pay closest attention to from now on. It is confusing for the people to believe in someone, the deputy prime minister or the government party lawmakers. What are we to expect of our future foreign policies? Even foreign media surmise that Korean politics has turned to the left and mention the possibility of changes in U.S.-Korean relations and North-South relations.
Thus, because the existing policies are shaking and yet there are no new ones presented yet, instability and insecurity is taking over. A wise and experienced leadership would not prolong such an ambiguous state. In order to reassure the people and raise their trust in the government, a new direction must be presented. It is a question on many people’s minds. Are we going further left? Are we going right? Is the statement that creating jobs and saving the economy are the top-most priorities still valid? Will the government party choose revenge or reconciliation with the conservative forces? Will it be the rule of law or populism? Will it be the “code” or pragmatism? These questions must be answered in any way as soon as possible. There are many rumors going on right now. Most of them are talk about who’s going to be punished and disciplined by the new government. The sooner a sign is given that the government party will use its majority of seats wisely, the faster we’ll be able to get rid of such unhealthy rumors.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Song Chin-hyok