[OUTLOOK]Mr. Roh vs. Park Chung Hee

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[OUTLOOK]Mr. Roh vs. Park Chung Hee

“Park Chung Hee is the tortoise, and Roh Moo-hyun is the hare.”
This is what came to my mind over the recent controversy about the wooden plaque on the Gwanghwamun gate. Almost everyone knows about the race between the tortoise and the hare. By the way, do you know the true reason why the tortoise won? It’s simple: The tortoise walked only looking up at the flag on the hilltop, while the hare ran looking at the tortoise, not at the flag.
The tortoise saw the hilltop as an absolute goal while the hare thought he had only to beat his rival. Consequently, although the hare was much faster, the rabbit fell asleep on the way while the tortoise plodded along. The question is what you look at when you run, not who is faster or slower. It is whether you look at the goal or at your rival.
Former President Park Chung Hee walked only looking up at the flag on the hilltop. He did so with a clear and absolute goal. Although he was laughed at in his time, he had a clear goal of achieving $1,000 per capita national income and $10 billion in exports. He walked without hesitating to look left and right. So, he was often spoken of critically. How severe the criticism must have been for him to have said, “Spit on my grave.”
On the other hand, President Roh Moo-hyun is like the hare. He runs looking at his rival rather than at the goal. He thinks he will be the first if only he outruns his rival. Of course the rival will change. At present, his rival may not be Park Chung Hee but Park Geun-hye, Mr. Park’s daughter and chairwoman of the opposition Grand National Party. But sooner or later, his rival could be the governor of Gyeonggi province Sohn Hak-kyu, or the mayor of Seoul, Lee Myung-bak. Even former Prime Minister Goh Kun or Welfare Minister Kim Keun-tae may become his rival. But what is certain is that a “rival watcher” can never beat a “goal watcher.” Here is the reason why Mr. Roh cannot win against Mr. Park.
At the beginning of this year, President Roh pledged to put all energy into aiding the economy. But what has he done during the past month? The first month has passed with growing suspicion among people that the government is trying to denigrate Mr. Park. It has released 40-year-old documents about the accord reached with Japan under the former president. And now the government is seeking to erase President Park’s legacy with the plan to change the wooden plaque where Mr. Park wrote “Gwanghwamun” in Korean.
The criteria and methods of the release of the documents were very ambiguous, but let’s leave it there. But if the government intended to change the wooden board, should it not have first questioned the cement structure of the gate itself?
It may be understandable if the government tried to replace the plaque while destroying the gate itself in order to build a proper one. It is preposterous to leave the cement structure alone and remove the wooden board on which President Park wrote the name of the gate. Rather, build a new gate and hang a plaque with President Roh’s writing on it. It would be better than making a fuss over picking letters from the inscription of King Jeongjo, who had nothing to do with the gate.
We have no time to lose. Pondering over why we are procrastinating, I came to think that it is because President Roh and the people around him are still wearing broken watches.
We have an experience of having floundered in a morass of out-of-season Marxism and juche, or self-reliance ideology, throughout the 1980s until the early 1990s.
At that time, our intellectual community was immersed in the study of Marxism from Karl Marx’s original text to Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Georg Lukacs, Rosa Luxemburg, and other diverse neo-Marxists, to the point of literally being in a “trade of sundries of Marxism.”
But it was in the mid-to-late 1970s when the French Communist Party theorist Louis Althusser warned of the crisis of Marxism. It was in 1980 when he even strangled his wife because he could not endure the discrepancies between self-perception and reality. Looking back, we made a late to-do over Marxism. Furthermore, although Alex Callinicos published a book titled “Is There a Future for Marxism?” in 1982, it was not until 1992 that we actually translated and read the book enthusiastically.
In a word, our watches of perception were out of order. They had stopped. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that we have lived with the time gap of at least 10 years, wandering in the wrong places. Of course, reading Marxism for academic purposes has little to do with the time difference.
But it is a serious problem to deal with reality, wearing watches that have stopped. Here lies the risk of President Roh and the so-called “386 generation” that surrounds him. We now live in 2005. We need to check if our watches are correct. And then we should walk toward the future, looking at a clear goal.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Chung Jin-hong
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