[TODAY]Laughter is the best politicsFinding a laugh in Korean politics seems harder than finding a needle in a haystack. Politics is so fierce that citizens are nervous and uneasy all the time. U.S. presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan were well known for coping with political difficulties with a sense of humor. The humor of Winston Churchill, who served as the British Prime Minister during World War II, cleared the hostility from debates in Parliament and made the politics of laughter possible. Mr. Churchill had his own way of joking. One day, he ran into Clement Attlee, the Labor Party prime minister at the time, in the bathroom. The only empty urinal was next to Mr. Attlee, but Mr. Churchill did not take it and waited for another spot. When Mr. Attlee asked why he did not take the place next to him, Mr. Churchill responded, “Whenever you see something that is large, privately owned and working well, you want to nationalize it.”
Eminent British historian and journalist Paul Johnson reckoned humor as one of the qualities a leader needed, along with moral courage, judgment, a sense of priority and concentration of effort. He said that there have been few leaders who have become successful without a sense of humor. “Even Helmuth von Moltke, the austere German strategist, laughed twice ― once when told a certain French fortress was impregnable, and once when his mother-in-law died.” Mr. Johnson also said that even Margaret Thatcher, who was criticized by political opponents as having no sense of humor, told a joke at a dinner attended by 600 men. “The cocks may crow, but it’s the hen that lays the egg.”
Mr. Reagan had a witty sense of humor. He joked, “There are advantages to being elected president. The day after I was elected, I had my high school grades classified Top Secret.” He also said, “I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon.” Mr. Lincoln also had a funny story he told. “One day, I ran into a man who put a gun up to my face. When I asked why, he replied that he had made an oath to shoot the man who was uglier than he was. So I said, ‘In that case, fire away. If I am uglier than you are, I don’t want to live any longer.’”
On the day that Team Korea beat the United States team in the World Baseball Classic and the victory united the nation as one, a comment by the Grand National Party spokesman Lee Ke-jin revealed that Korean politics is a wasteland of humor. While he called the Korean team defeating the American team a thrill, he said that the government might have ordered Team Korea to humiliate the teams of countries Korea is having diplomatic trouble with. The opposition spokesman’s sophism was not funny at all. If he intended to say that the so-called “Busan Commercial High School Mafia,” whose members include President Roh Moo-hyun; commissioner of the Korean Baseball Organization Shin Sang-woo, Samsung Lions CEO Kim Eung-yong and defense minister Yoon Kwang-ung, had manipulated the baseball team to beat the United States and Japan out of anti-American and anti-Japanese sentiments, he is virtually insulting the Korean team.
Although it is a season of politics, it is not appropriate for a leader and spokesman of a political party to make comments on the outcome of a baseball match. When you let businessmen do business and baseball players play baseball, they can be the best in the world. If he really wanted to say something, he should have repented of the politics that have frustrated citizens and promised that politicians would also work hard to elevate politics to global standards ― just as Korean companies, baseball players, footballers, golfers and skaters have done. He shouldn’t have ruined the celebration of the citizens, who are finally celebrating a victory in baseball after a long sorrow over politics.
Laughter is known to make the human body produce endorphins and help treat incurable diseases. Therefore, laughter therapy for cancer is increasingly popular nowadays. What most desperately needs laughter therapy is Korea’s politics, which is suffering from a terminal stage cancer with a rush of adrenalin. Politics with humor and laughter make citizens comfortable at heart. The White House has a writer in charge of adding jokes to the president’s speeches. The Blue House and political parties might want to consider hiring secretaries for jokes. If they cannot afford the additional labor expense, they should pursue politics with laughter by outsourcing to established joke writers.
* The writer is an adviser and senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie