[FORUM]Co-existence or confrontation?After resuming his duties after his impeachment-induced layoff, President Roh Moo-hyun resolved to “to tighten his shoelaces and run hard.”
He has certainly taken a wrong step by forcibly pushing changes in his cabinet. Again, he tries to play an unreasonable game with his choice of Kim Hyuk-kyu as the new prime minister. Watching this political game, I feel uneasy. I had heard the Office of the Blue House appointed an unprecedented secretary for the leadership position, but I am sorry to see the president getting hurt before he even starts running.
Some say the president’s excessive hastiness is to blame; others say it is the president’s peculiar brand of obstinacy. But what is more serious is President Roh’s confrontational attitude.
In a statement to the people and during a talk with the business community after he was reinstated, President Roh criticized those who are blowing things out of proportion to induce fear. He warned, “There should be no arguments that exaggerate the crisis to stir up anxiety in people as a means to impede reform.”
I don’t know exactly which people he was referring to, but those who have worried about the economy and criticized the government’s complacent measures are likely to be badly hurt if they don’t watch out.
In his speech at Yonsei University a few days ago, Mr. Roh went a step further. He defined the conservatism as “an idea for the strong people to do whatever they want” and the liberalism as “an idea of living together by changing the society.” By attacking the conservatives as if they were evil, the president ended up declaring himself a liberal.
Aside from the question of whether his perception of what is conservatism or liberalism is correct, I wonder if it was right for the president to have a particular ideology and draw such clear lines between him and the other parties. An ideology, conservative or liberal, is nothing but a method used to manage a society.
Shouldn’t the president try to accomplish harmony between the two ideologies and find the best way to develop the country and promote its welfare? National unity is the most important factor in operating state affairs. But instead the president comes forward to choose sides and take a confrontational attitude. I am just confused about what he really intends to do.
Anyway, conservatives seem to have a hard time ahead with Mr. Roh in charge. “Whatever they come up with, say, rational conservative, warm conservative, or whatever kind of conservative, conservative is shorthand for ‘Let’s not change,’” Mr. Roh said. These remarks seem to have been aimed at the Grand National Party, and he had other derisive words for other parties.
President Roh also attacked his enemies in the media, saying, “The connections between power and news media seem to be cut off, but the adhesion between politics and the media still seem to exist.”
He appeared to single out some newspaper companies and the opposition parties that are critical of those currently in power. However, it’s the nature of the press to criticize whoever is in power, no matter who it is. It’s not a conspiracy.
Feelings of being victimized by criticism and his distorted views on the press are worrisome. Should the press become the mouthpiece of people in power?
Furthermore, he asked the public “to cut off the politics-press collusions.” At once, I was reminded of the liberal civic groups, the Office of Senior Presidential Secretary for Civic Society, newly created at the Blue House, and its senior secretary, Moon Jae-in. I am concerned about whether Mr. Roh is going to carry out reform by mobilizing civic groups such as his Red Guards.
The confrontational approach the president is taking is likely to lead to another great clash in the future. I’d like to ask the president if this is the route that he truly intends to take, especially since the president likes to emphasize “co-existence” at every opportunity.
In his message to the public on Buddha’s birthday, he stressed the Buddhist spirit of “acknowledging the differences in each other and achieving unity of a higher dimension.” In his speech at Yonsei University, he also said emphatically, “If we advocate co-existence only to win concessions from the other party or to attack it, we will fail.”
I’d like to remind the president of those words.
* The writer is the chief of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Heo Nam-chin
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