[NOTEBOOK]Gangsters in the legislature?Kkakdugi, cubed or diced radish kimchi, was not even treated as a kind of kimchi in past days. It was nothing but a by-product of cabbage kimchi. The original kkakdugi, it is said, was made of the remaining radishes without much care after putting sliced radishes between cabbage leaves when Koreans made cabbage kimchi. As a result, the size and shape of the radishes were random, and kkakdugi could not be served at tables of the noble class. It was, so to speak, non-mainstream kimchi.
The word “kkakdugi” began to mean “gangsters” some time later. This derived from the fact that the flat-top hair style that gangsters generally wore was associated with kkakdugi. I don’t know well why gangsters wore such a hair style. Some say that they did so to avoid having their hair pulled while fighting, and others say they did so to portray a tough image. Still others analyzed that it was a sign of esprit de corps.
President Roh Moo-hyun recently changed his hair style to a kkakdugi crew cut. At a dinner with the lawmakers of Our Open Party at the Blue House on May 29, a lawmaker asked about it. President Roh did not answer but reportedly said to those nearby, “It takes less time to take care of my hair after I had it cut short.”
But many ruling party lawmakers do not think the change was only for the sake of convenience. Some say it might be a sign of determination. In any case, it evokes a strong image.
At the dinner with lawmakers, President Roh also said, “Behaving unpredictably will do harm. Let’s be slow in expressing ourselves.” He added, “Honor the cause and practical gains. If you don’t know which is better, choose the side where you gain less.” These remarks seem to have been aimed at young lawmakers who oppose the appointment of the former governor of South Gyeongsang province, Kim Hyuk-kyu, to be the next prime minister, or they seem to have been a warning to the former party chairman Chung Dong-yong and the former floor leader Kim Keun-tae who had been engaged in a war of nerves over joining the cabinet and jousting for a presidential nomination in 2006. Whatever their implications might have been, his remarks contained the meaning that reinforcement of the discipline of the ruling party was needed.
With regard to the controversy over the appointment of Mr. Kim, Mr. Roh said, “The Grand National Party is not right to raise questions just because it feels hurt.” Here, I could read his determination to push through despite opposition.
President Roh’s remarks get stronger and tougher as time passes. Following his speech at Yonsei University on May 27, remarks that provoke the opposition party continue. We feel uneasy because we don’t know when his politics of co-existence will revert to confrontation.
When the conflict begins, it is probable that the gangster culture of kkakdugi will be rampant. The same will be true with either the ruling party or the opposition. The dichotomy of seeing our troops as good and the enemy forces as evil and the consciousness of belonging to a particular group will prevail in both parties. By that time, a majority of lawmakers of the ruling and opposition parties may have fallen into gangsterism. The request from the president “not to behave unpredictably” may make ruling party lawmakers act rigidly. It may also promote the growth of a gangster culture, and the future of the 17th National Assembly could be dark. In addition, President Roh asked ruling party lawmakers to put “we” before “I” and, as to “we,” to think of the “big we.” I hope President Roh himself will first put his words into action and pursue a “politics of greatness” and “politics of unity.”
* The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Sang-il