[FOUNTAIN]A leader’s health is a sensitive issueThere’s a saying that we should boast about our illness. It means that when you are sick, you should tell others about it and not struggle alone. As the word spreads, the chances of gathering information on the disease rise. However, the “boasting” should be done by the patient. If done by others, it could create misunderstanding. When the word is spread by enemies, it could become an act of secretly injuring the patient. Even the patient’s family should be careful about discussing the illness. The pain of others should not be the subject of gossip.
It was inappropriate for Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan to mention President Roh Moo-hyun’s back pain in front of reporters he invited to the official residence. Even if the comment was made while talking about golf, it was inappropriate. He said, “It seems that the [president’s] back pain lasts for at least two weeks after he goes out on the [golf] course once. He has a hard time sitting for more than an hour because of the pain. The back surgery was not that successful.”
Most of the diplomatic corps members in Seoul must have listened carefully to these comments. A president’s health is a very sensitive political issue at all times and in all places. The health of a country’s leader itself is part of the political system.
President John F. Kennedy underwent back surgery twice, but the fact that “he was not able to put on his left sock or shoe by himself and took massive amounts of painkillers every day” was only revealed 30 years after his death. It shows how sensitive the issue of the president’s health is.
In the summer of 2002, Representative Kim Moo-sung of the Grand National Party had to resign as the chief of staff to presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang because of a comment that just implied the “possibility of a mishap” to then President Kim Dae-jung.
Mr. Kim was actually not in good condition. The comment was based on the truth, but the public response was as cold as ice. People critically questioned whether the Grand National Party had already seized political power. It was a scolding for being careless and arrogant. Through the latest incident, I hope Prime Minister Lee will become more thoughtful and modest.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.