[FORUM]Words speak louder than actionsThere are some politicians who confuse reporters. They pour out ambiguous words, making it hard for reporters to write sensible articles. Such politicians include Kim Jong-pil, former leader of the United Liberal Democratic Party, and Kim Yoon-hwan, a former adviser for the New Korea Party who passed away two years ago.
Both had a quick eye to read the flow of the political arena. They were able to adapt well to changes in the situation too. But their remarks were so ambiguous that they caused confusion as to their meaning. They were accustomed to producing opinions that could be interpreted in either way to their advantage when things did not turn out as they wished.
So when what they said caused an uproar, they could escape from a difficult situation by saying that their words were “misrepresented” or “mistaken.”
Some said they enjoyed the Zen dialogue, but critics censured them as experienced opportunists. The purpose of their mode of expression and speech was to be as vague as possible.
It is hard to grasp the focus of speech when it involves nouns and adjectives whose concepts are uncertain. Even so, Kim Jong-pil’s speech could be considered attractive because it was based on erudite knowledge, highlighted by a skillful mixture of the playfulness of politics and of life, which also reflects part of his ideology.
Both Kims received high marks for their experience and achievements that were marked by patience and consideration, but they also could not shake off the shyster image, the stigma stemming from illegal campaign funds and talk of conspiracy.
Their equivocal speech only served to cast a darker shadow on their political career. The “politics of ambiguity” was the result of either their wish not to make any enemies or their inability.
The principle of transparency, one of the policies that the “participatory” government has pursued, deserves praise. Maintaining sovereign and business credit ratings above a certain level means that the quality and extent of our growth are trustworthy. Here lies the reason why the market can increase its stock prices.
But as far as environmental issues are concerned, the present administration is still trapped in the mire of old tactics, keeping ambiguity. These tactics might be their refuge. The remarks of so many smart alecks around the central power are extremely vague.
At the end of 2003, when the protest against the construction of the Mount Sapae tunnel through Mount Bukhan was at its peak, President Roh Moo-hyun eventually had to visit a Buddhist temple to ask for its cooperation in the project.
But the president never officially declared that he was breaking his campaign pledge to stop the Mount Sapae tunnel project.
Regarding the protest against the Mount Cheonseong tunnel project, the prime minister had to visit a temple this year to persuade a Buddhist nun to stop her hunger strike. He also never publicly reneged on President Roh’s campaign promise to block the rail tunnel through Mount Cheonseong near Busan.
If Mr. Roh realized that once in power he could not stop these national projects, he should have explained that he had to back off on the pledges he made during his presidential campaign. But no president in the past has officially declared he would break his promise. The political risk is too high.
If the administration emphasizes transparency on some points and is a little more fuzzy on other points, this is nothing new, but upholding the political precedent of ambiguity is to trample on the principle of transparency.
The public is now more aware of how vague words are skillfully used in politics. In his third year of office, I hope President Roh will review and recall the hasty pledges he made during his presidential campaign that ended up causing problems later.
Doing so would help the president uphold his image as an outsider, as a man who pursues clean politics. How stately he would appear!
I no longer want to see the president or the prime minister bowing down to special interest groups because he didn’t have the courage to tell them clearly that he couldn’t fulfill his campaign promises.
* The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Choi Chul-joo