[OUTLOOK]A deaf and blind government

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[OUTLOOK]A deaf and blind government

The government is taking a bad beating. The media, opposition parties, a mayor and a governor continue to throw punches at it. Criticism from the governing party is hurting, too.
The harsh and sometimes vulgar words used to describe the government at drinking parties are too shameful to be repeated. People complain, “Is there anything the government can do right?”
The surprising thing is that everything is still the same, despite so many assaults. Does it stand the beatings because it is so resilient? People would feel assured if the government was actually sturdy. However, if we take into account the falling economy, an unstable foreign policy and the absurdities committed by President Roh’s close aides, there is no weaker organization than the current government.
I worry over the possibility that the government may collapse. If it does, the misfortunes that follow would be left to the country and the people to handle.
From the beginning, the government exhibited a penchant for being deaf to criticism and blind when shown its mistakes. The recently uncovered irregularities involving the Haengdam island development plan are a good example. Although it was revealed that Blue House officials were involved in it, scandalizing the public, the government waited until after the results of the investigation were announced to apologize to the people.
The Haengdam project involved the Presidential Committee on Northeast Asian Cooperation Initiative. Naturally, people’s attention was turned to the function and role of presidential committees, which turned out to be full of problems. It was pointed out many times how these committees appropriated the authority of their main departments, causing confusion.
The fact that an expert on international politics was involved in the construction deal does not make sense. The government seems to have no more room to make excuses, especially as they are scolded for amateurism.
Still, the Blue House says officials did not do anything wrong. An article, “The Presidential Committees are the Hope,” written by Lee Joung-woo, the chairman of policy planning, argues that criticism originated from “the ignorance of related facts,” or resulted from “the way of thinking that is accustomed to the despotic governments of the past.” The report basically repeats the mantra, “It’s your fault,” that we have heard so many times.
In response to those who charge the government with amateurism, they said, “The scholars of the committees are the best specialists from each field.” If so, how can they explain why other top experts unfold their theories against government policy whenever an important one is announced? I want to ask whether they haven’t picked the most agreeable and personally compatible “best friends” among the “best specialists”?
Of course, media criticism can be flawed, and I admit that we may have failed to notice the advantages of the committees. However, isn’t it right to admit one’s faults when it comes to a case where the truth is disclosed undeniably as in the case of the Presidential Committee on Northeast Asian Cooperation Initiative? It is regrettable that the government is not taking this opportunity to examine humbly whether there are committees that should be abolished; whether some functions of the committees overlap with functions of government departments; whether it is true that having another organization inside an organization is making policies more confusing; and whether this committee is becoming an organ unresponsive to public opinion.
The government is also not admitting that they made a mistake with the real estate policy, even though it could not be clearer. The price of Gangnam apartments that they were supposed to hold down has instead jumped and the price spiral has widened to other metropolitan areas. And land prices all over the country are bouncing up and down. Yet they insist, “There is nothing wrong with the policy.” They tell the critics, “Don’t be so impatient.”
They are not responsible for anything because they do not admit to having done anything wrong. On top of that, people are pointing out that things are turning into a “presidential non-responsibility system” as the government is experimenting with decentralizing presidential authority without making the distinction between the role of the president and that of the prime minister clear. The Blue House actually manages main policies such as the real estate policy, but when something goes wrong the arrows of criticism go instead to the prime minister or the minister in charge. The new system is a very comfortable one for the president because he can hide behind his shield, meaning the prime minister who “is in charge of general administration.”
Where is he going to go with his eyes closed and his ears blocked?
The creator of “Question Thinking,” Marilee G. Adams, categorizes people into the “judge” type and the “learner” type, and compares the types of questions they ask themselves. The judge asks, “Whose fault is it? Why are they picking on me? Why are they so ignorant?”
On the other hand the learner asks, “Why should I take responsibility? Can I change the way I perceive this situation? What do other people want?”
The writer claims the questions of the judge drive him to despair, fatigue and a sense of failure, but the questions of the learner provoke curiosity, bring about inspiration and pull him along the road to success.
The government seems to have the air of the “judge” type.
I want to ask them to at least start throwing out learner questions, and get on the road to success. “What needs to be fixed? Did we take the wrong road? What needs to be done in order to avoid clumsiness?”

* The writer is the chief of the JoongAng Ilbo’s editorial page.

by Heo Nam-chin
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