[VIEWPOINT]No one approves of betrayalThe former lawmaker Kim Sang-hyun, who was recently arrested on charges of illegally accepting political funds from a real estate developer, once said, “When I was imprisoned by the authoritarian regime of former President Chun Doo Hwan, a close associate of mine came to see me in the prison and said, charged with emotion, that ‘Mr. A, whom you had taken care of so well, has betrayed you.’ So, I told him that, ‘It is I who betrayed him, since that man came to me with expectations that I would provide him with either a good job or a chance to make a lot of money, but I failed to satisfy his expectations.’”
People aren’t sure what to make of Mr. Kim. Some people say that, “except when he introduces himself as Kim Sang-hyun and when he breathes, everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie.” On the other hand, he protested against the military regime and led the movement for environmental protection. Although he is a typical politician from the old generation, he is generous to those who betrayed him and even greets them as if he had never heard of their betrayal. When I heard his view of his “betrayal,” I was moved.
In the world of politics, breaches of faith are routine. It is commonplace for an enemy yesterday to become a comrade today, and then once again become an enemy tomorrow. Since politicians cannot maintain their health if they get angry and let their hearts tear at so many betrayals, they may swallow their anger by thinking in the same way that Mr. Kim did.
Former presidents suffered from breaches of faith by their subordinates towards the end of their terms in office. It is said that rats know when a ship is sinking and are the first to leave. Such was the case with the papers that the head of the Democratic Liberal Party, Kim Young-sam, carried with him in a yellow envelope when he met his predecessor, Roh Tae-woo, to strike a political deal; it happened to the material on political funds for former President Kim Dae-jung. Lee Hoi-chang, the presidential candidate of the New Korea Party, released the material, which had been provided by presidential secretaries. It is natural for people to line up behind an incoming strong man rather than the outgoing one.
Nevertheless, the betrayal of presidential aides who have served in the Roh Moo-hyun administration is extremely serious. The timing is too early and the number is conspicuously large.
The former senior presidential secretary for the national economy, Chung Tae-in, is now spearheading a movement to oppose the conclusion of a Korea-U.S. free trade agreement that President Roh emphasized as a major project for the later part of his term. Even Lee Joung-woo, current presidential policy advisor and former Blue House policy chief, is against the promotion of a free trade agreement with the United States.
On the issue of transferring the wartime control of Korean troops away from Washington, President Roh said the transfer could be done at any time, even now, but his former defense secretary, Kim Hee-sang, said, “There is no practical benefit in the transfer, and it will only destabilize the foundation of national security.”
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yoon Young-kwan also criticized the move, saying, “However loudly we call for self-reliance, what meaning can we find in self-reliance if we are isolated diplomatically?” The former planning chief of the National Intelligence Service, Suh Dong-man, said that “the presidential secretariat is filled with those who only say yes to the president.” The situation has become so bad that the former vice minister of culture and tourism, Yoo Jin-ryoung, exposed the arbitrary personnel appointments made by young presidential aides who belong to the “386 generation” ― those who were born in the 1960s and who attended university in the 1980s.
In a country that has a Confucian cultural background, betrayal signals a lack of virtue and is therefore disgraceful. As portrayed in the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” Guan Yu, who refused Cao Cao’s persistent pleas to work for him, is the symbol of an Asian hero.
During the election campaign for the mayoralty of Daejeon, the political career of the governing Uri Party’s candidate, Yum Hong-chul, who was elected twice on the Grand National Party’s ticket but bolted to the governing party in 2005, became a controversial issue. Incidentally, Park Sung-hyo, the Grand National candidate, had worked as a deputy mayor under Mr. Yum. If Mr. Park criticized Mr. Yum for his “political betrayal,” logically Mr. Park would have “betrayed” Mr. Yum’s personal confidence. Finally, it was decided that former lawmaker Kang Chang-hee would step forward and criticize Mr. Yum.
Earlier, Mr. Kang had refused to stand up against Mr. Yum in the elections, even at the urging of Park Geun-hye, who was at the time the chairwoman of the Grand National Party, for the reason that he could not fight his old friend.
After Mr. Kang started to criticize Mr. Yum’s betrayal, the voters started to disapprove of Mr. Yum’s bolt to the governing party. If Mr. Kang himself ran in the elections, however, could his words have been so persuasive? Koreans are quite strict in punishing an act of betrayal done merely to further one’s own interests.
In the past, the breaches of faith that took place toward the end of a presidential term progressed clandestinely, as they were related with the concerned person’s promotion to a higher position. However, the betrayals taking place now are being carried out openly and in the name of public interest. The betrayers claim that they “give more priority to preventing the nation from going in the wrong direction, rather than to being loyal to President Roh.” However well they may wrap up their betrayal in noble causes, spitting in a fountain one used to drink from can never be a decent act, as the saying goes.
Nevertheless, President Roh should look back to see whether he “betrayed their expectations.”
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo