[VIEWPOINT]The administration’s confusionThe Roh Moo-hyun administration, which came to power through a dramatic presidential election, has entered the second half of its term. Many people pinned their hopes on the administration when it came into office, claiming to be the government of the common people.
When the National Assembly impeached the president in the process of the Uri Party’s splitting off from the Millennium Democratic Party, the people staged candlelight demonstrations to save the president, and in the legislative elections last year the people gave the Uri Party a majority of seats. All this was an expression of the expectation and hope the public put in the present administration.
But now, when the policies of the Roh administration should be at a stable stage, the people feel greatly disappointed. The administration should be consistent in the operation of state affairs under a precise plan, but it lost track of its direction amid confusion and disorder, and the economic conditions of the common people remain constricted.
The scandals over the Korea National Railroad’s investment in a failed Russian oil venture and the Korea Highway Corporation’s Haengdam island development project make us wonder whether important national matters are decided according to impromptu ideas without sufficient review and policy coordination. As to the construction of a new administrative city, not a few people criticized the administration for its insistence on a mistaken policy.
Also, some evaluate that the government’s education and real estate policies, balanced regional development policy, and even foreign and security policies are amateurish experiments based on unverified ideas, although its goal and determination are good.
What are the causes for this confusion in the operation of state affairs? Are the people in charge of the administration incompetent? Or is it because they could not display their abilities fully? Did the non-cooperation of the opposition parties or the people’s lack of understanding of policies provide the causes? Was the deterioration in international conditions, including the oil price increase, foreign exchange rate fluctuations and the North Korean nuclear crisis, a critical cause? Or was it just because the government was unlucky?
Uncertain factors are bound to exist. The most important quality of a political leader is not the ability to avoid crisis but the ability to overcome it. This is because it is not possible to avoid all crises. A leader should not only grasp exactly the nature of a crisis but also consolidate the power of the people by persuading them, and overcome the crisis by using their strength properly.
How about our leader, then? The present administration gained recognition for its superiority to the past administrations in terms of morality. But an incapable, moral leader cannot always be a good leader. A good leader is one the people can trust. It is important to have the people’s confidence from the aspect of morality, but more than anything else the people should be able to trust the leader’s ability and move in the direction the leader suggested.
In this regard, the Roh administration is not trusted by the people. In the April 30 by-elections, the people showed clearly that they could not trust the governing Uri Party. The recent corruption scandals increased their distrust of the government.
But a bigger problem is that the public does not trust that the government’s policies are moving on the right track according to law and principles. An inconsistent law is said to be worse than a bad law. Even a bad law, if the degree is not extreme, can play the role of a law in its own way if it is consistent and predictable. But a good law, however good it is, cannot play the role of a law if it is applied arbitrarily each time, because nobody can trust the law.
The same goes for government policy. If the policy breaks the law and principles based on the consideration of its purpose each time, trust in the policy will be lost even if something else is gained through it, and ultimately people’s trust in the government will be lost. If so, is it not clear what our government should pay most attention to at this point?
* The writer is a professor of constitutional law at Korea University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Chang Young-soo