[VIEWPOINT]Time to take stockThe public’s evaluations of the administration under President Roh Moo-hyun, which is in its fourth year of office, differ in the extreme from person to person, but one thing clear is that the low approval rating of the president shows no sign of rising again.
Those who are around the president are glaring at people outside the government and putting the blame for low public support on others, such as “the people who are still living in a time of dictatorship,” “certain press” that are out to grasp power, or the “Roh Moo-hyun discount” that evades the truth. However, I think it is time for these people to turn their eyes on themselves and consider what problems there may be in the inner circle of the ruling camp.
They need to do this because the administration has kept on saying it is “your fault” on numerous occasions in the past three years, but such an approach to the problem only makes people tired and provokes cynical remarks, such as “look to yourself.” Also, if it views all the blame as “your fault,” rather than “our fault,” it will not be possible to create the politics of responsibility that are the essence of democracy.
It can be said that President Roh’s supporters commit the contradiction of denying the principle of democracy after having come into power through the democratization movement.
The reason things have turned out like this is because there is basically no trust between the government and the people. I believe the solution to this lies in openly looking for the cause of the mistrust within the inner circle right now, even though it may seem a little late.
Instead of lamenting that the people do not understand the genuine sentiments of the government, the administration should look back on how much effort it has really made in the last three years to truly understand the people.
The government has only tried to lead people by hanging out the slogan of innovation and making a big noise, but it now needs the tolerance of considering the position of bystanders and losers ― why it is that so many people are hesitating to follow the government, or even taking steps back from it.
If the government only harshly criticizes people with questions like, “What did you do after you elected the president?,” it will clearly lead to a further dissolution of any trust and not a revival. After all, people cannot understand what else they should offer after entrusting the current government with the highest political power in the nation and providing it with the majority of seats in the National Assembly. In this respect, we can only be envious of the tolerance of the Romans who were said to embrace and assimilate even those they conquered.
Broad-mindedness is important for restoring the confidence of the public, but since it is hard to expect broad-mindedness under the present circumstances, the only thing I expect from the government is that it should take on an attitude of resoluteness and finish the things that it has started.
Instead of interfering in politics or showing a willingness to start more new projects, it would be a desirable thing for the government to meticulously take care of the things that it has already started, such as creating more jobs or establishing Korea as the economic hub of Northeast Asia, so that it can really get back on track.
The nearer the administration gets to the end of its term in power, the easier it becomes to fall into the temptation of trying to create a new political structure or conjure up a grand scheme for the future. But such temptations have seldom been accomplished, instead, they quicken the lame duck phenomenon.
For example, there have been attempts in the past to establish an advisory council for the president, to promote an amendment of the constitution to adopt a parliamentary system of government, to nominate a successor or to explore ways to adopt a union or federal system of national unification, in order to maintain power after retirement. Not one of these were ever accomplished.
On the contrary, the pursuit of such things has resulted in the depreciation of the president’s existing accomplishments and a loss of the people’s goodwill because of excessive measures taken in the course of their promotion.
Local elections will be held in a few months and after that, the atmosphere for the next presidential election will be created. Political powers feel the urge to intervene in politics at a time like this, and there are usually groups that force them to do so, or make political appeals themselves. However, I think this is the time for the government to put all its strength into administering fair elections.
When it is already hard enough for the government to finish things it has started, if those in power interfere further in the political field with their own expectations and hopes that history will judge it well in the far future, it will end up leaving a disgrace with no accomplishments, just like past examples have shown us.
* The writer is a professor of political science at Kyungnam University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Shim Ji-yeon