[FORUM]An open letter to the presidentDear President Roh Moo-hyun,
As of this year, I have been a reporter for 22 years. In that time, there have been four changes in presidential administrations. I have watched their births and their extinctions close-up, and I have reached my own conclusion: Power is futile. Power is finite.
This is a fact that we all know. But the fact that we all know it is not what matters. What matters is that power does not know it. As long as one holds power, one does not realize its futility and its transience. Probably one becomes too big to know it. Power is intoxicated with itself. It believes it can do anything.
For this reason, power becomes arrogant. Because of its arrogance, it becomes alienated from the world. The world turns away from power, and because of it, power clings to itself all the tighter. In this, it is like a drug addict. The addict cannot forget the drug.
Power dreams of perpetuating itself. Korean presidents have dreamed of doing this by introducing the parliamentary cabinet system. Whether on a small or large scale, the idea has been brought up in every presidential administration I have seen. Of course, it is an attractive idea, particularly to a powerful man who is on the way out. That is because it allows power to be divided. The trick is to secure a share of it. In this way, the powerful man keeps his influence.
But this dream has failed to come true. That is because of the power of the future. Prospective presidential candidates, whether from the governing party or from the opposition, want to seize power in its entirety. They have no interest in having just a share of it. So they objected to the change in system.
Power then sought the next alternative: to create its successor by its own hand. The idea is to leave the successor in his debt ―to secure credit, rather than a share.
The primary question was who that successor would be. The criterion was obvious. It was not ability. The criterion was the successor’s relationship to the person in power. The best choice would be someone who would protect him once he was out of office. But a close relationship was not the only consideration. The successor would have to be able to win an election. The stronger the appointed successor’s likely rival, the more electability he would need to have. Of course, it would be fortunate if the person met both criteria. But this was no easy matter. In the end, power had to choose, and supported a candidate. If it did so, power thought, the successor would be loyal. But what was the result? Power was dealt a blow by its own appointed successor. Power is not something that is handed down. The successor struck at the very power that made it. Indeed, it had to do so, in order to become power in both name and reality. This is why power is ultimately meaningless.
Some time ago, Mr. President, you proposed forming a coalition government. The reason, you said, was that the governing party was outnumbered in the National Assembly. You said the opposition held you back. But that was hardly convincing. That is what opposition parties are for. This would be true even if a coalition were formed. Nothing will change. By any chance, do you have some other purpose? Are you considering introducing the parliamentary cabinet system? If so, please think again.
This is an important time in your presidency. From now on, you should wage a lonely battle ― not an external one, but an internal one, to protect yourself. You have many comrades. They may mean more to you than your brothers. You came into power with them. Until now, you have had shared interests. But it will be different now. These comrades are young. They are the very ones who would be reluctant to let go of power, because they are planning their futures. They may one day dream of extending their power. They may consider the parliamentary cabinet system. And then they will suggest creating power. But for whose sake? For their own, not yours. You are already the president. You have no higher to go. You are at your destination. For this reason, your relationship with them cannot be the same.
You have served half your term. Why do you need the parliamentary cabinet system? Why do you care? This is not to say the cabinet system is bad ―only that it is not a matter for you to address. It is a matter for your successors to discuss. They are concerned about the country too. If it is necessary, they will create the cabinet system. If you stick with the idea despite all this, it will be because you have other reasons.
Please consider one thing at a time. Please be faithful to the present. It is simple: Restore the economy first, please. You should keep your promise. Please remember the futility of power. It is meaningless. Write a new chapter in the history of how power ends. Please be a president that departs to cheers. It would be good to see.
*The writer is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Yeon-hong