[OUTLOOK]Time to slow down the thrill ridesThe presidential system fits my taste. Who could have guessed that representative Han Myung-sook, a female politician with tender and elegant expression and a heroine of pure love who exchanged love letters with her husband for years while he was in prison, would be nominated as the new prime minister? I enjoy not only this change in thought but also such resolve more than anyone. The same goes for the selection of my former classmate from high school as the environment minister. His brightness did not stand out particularly among the group of bright students, but every former classmate remembers how brilliantly he had transformed himself in every sports event. He was, so-to-speak, a volunteer cheerleader. Although no one forced him to do so, he used to dance, imitating a humpback to brighten up the adolescents who were dwarfed under the pressure of college entrance examinations. His dance may have been a promising sign of becoming a minister in the future. I cannot help but rejoice at the liveliness of the selection of ministers.
But there’s a price for the enjoyment. Behind the joyfulness, an uncertain feeling always lies hidden. Formation of the cabinet depends entirely on the president’s judgment. Whenever the president comes up with a surprising move, the people enjoy the thrill as if they were riding a roller coaster. It’s thrilling politics that the president readily entrusts the position of minister to an unexpected figure. It is politics that are entirely left to the president who doesn’t have guidebooks to follow or texts to read.
The more delicate the president’s sense of the political situation, the more difficult it is to predict who will be on his staff and who will be his ministers. No one knew that Kim Doo-kwan, a former county head who was nominated for the minister of government administration and home affairs at the beginning of the present administration, was such a capable politician.
Neither did anyone guess that Kang Geum-sil, a female civil rights lawyer, was a master of martial arts who could perfectly control the swordsmen in the world like the actress Zhang Ziyi in the Chinese film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
Who could have known that representative Rhyu Si-min, a fluent speaker, would claim to be a gladiator of ideology and become minister of health and welfare?
Fortunately, the debut of these figures was successful or is likely to be successful. Although it is fresh, it is risky politics.
In this complicated age that requires skillful managerial ability, there is no know way to know whether suddenly appointed figures are equipped with the capability and knowledge to skillfully handle delicate issues.
The thrilling risk comes from the uncertainty of the presidential system. The “betting politics” that stakes the fate of the country on such uncertainty is the problem.
The cabinet system does not allow people to bet. This is because they know who is the head of the party and what political career he has had. Moreover, they know the policy line and menus the ministers of his cabinet will take.
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair is from an aristocratic family and from the University of Oxford, a background unfitting for the Labor Party. British voters voted for the Labor Party led by Mr. Blair because they believed that Minister Gordon Brown, a close aide to the head of the party who used the manner of speech of the working class, would negotiate dexterously with tough union leaders.
But no one knew that our presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun would fill the Blue House with the “386 generation” democratic fighters.
It was unexpected that Koh Kun, who had been called an expert in administration, was appointed as the first prime minister of the present administration, and the president would not have known either that in three years, he would join the ranks of people who harshly criticize the present government.
At a time when the thrill increases after the joy, now the voters should prepare for more betting, because players are running. In this momentous hour when we have to judge which player we should entrust our future to, the uncertainly of the presidential system hits us with surprise again.
Uncertainty is like this. First, there is no guarantee that the president will come from the self-claimed presidential candidates. The uncertainty involves the novelty that someone else may gain explosive popularity and become the next president. Second, the uncertainty has the absurdity that supporters can have no say even if the president completely betrays them after he is elected president. Third, the uncertainty has the unpredictability in that whoever seizes power, it is impossible to predict who will be the staff, prime minister or ministers. Novelty begets populism, absurdity presents pain in the heart and unpredictability creates shock and concerns. If the president could reduce this thrill even just a little, we could comfortably enjoy the liveliness and resoluteness of the presidential system.
* The writer is a professor of sociology at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Song Ho-heun