[OUTLOOK]Roh’s psychology of economics

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[OUTLOOK]Roh’s psychology of economics

If you made a movie or wrote a book about President Roh Moo-hyun, the work would be likely to sell. The hero of the story is the leader of a country. He is active and aggressive and loves challenges. There are plenty of plot twists. He is not afraid of conflict and is full of surprises. The story has many traits that would satisfy audiences or readers.
Dozens of books on the president have already been published. Most of them were written by someone other than himself, and few of them are interesting. His autobiography, titlted “Honey, Please Help Me,” is the best of the lot. It is well written and it reveals his frankness in a down-to-earth style. He seems to have written the book himself, unlike other politicians who tell professional writers their stories and call the books “autobiographies.”
President Roh’s autobiography helps a lot in understanding President Roh. We can understand why he clings to close aides such as Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon to fill the posts of high officials, despite opposition from the public. I still read this book whenever President Roh says an improper remark, or pushes an unreasonable policy, or handles personnel affairs in an odd way.
When his autobiography is this interesting, if someone else with talent wrote a book about him, with great effort, it could be even more interesting. Since Mr. Roh assumed power, much research is sure to be done on him later. In the future, a TV series or a novel about him will probably come out.
Actually, I had planned to write a book, possibly titled “Roh Moo-hyun’s economics.” President Roh is a very logical person and knowledgeable on economics, so he was believed to play a decisive role in leading the country’s economy. I gathered material and information, mostly focusing on his economic philosophy, his management style and his remarks.
In the president’s early days in office, he studied economics so eagerly that his close aides had a hard time keeping up with him. Mr. Roh knew everything there was to know about the Internet. Working staff were often stunned by his skill and knowledge.
After a while, Mr. Roh amended the pledges that he had made as a candidate for president, without knowing the reality of the position. He probably figured out that he had misunderstood things and that many things simply would not work even though he pushed hard for them. Labor union policy was one of those. He also changed his policy on the national pension.
I thought I could write a decent book about Mr. Roh’s economics if I followed the course of his changes on economic policy and his philosophy on the economy.
However, looking at what is going on these days, it is probably best to drop the idea of writing a book on this. President Roh’s economics are getting increasingly confusing. The economics is gone and only the psychology is left. Government officials’ top concern is to look at the president and try not to stir him up. This seems natural because the president has become the expert on economics. The president’s strong convictions are the major basis for all government policies and measures, including transfer of capital, real estate policy, tax measures and the egalitarianism-oriented education policy.
President Roh used to be credited for being down to earth. He has now become very authoritative. He does not stand opposition very well and publicly insists on employing those he wants to hire. What changed him? There must be a couple of reasons, but a decisive one could be his 2004 impeachment. He was so upset by that he probably made up his mind to do things in his own way, from personnel affairs to government policies. This seems quite certain, looking into the people that the president employed for the economic department and his economic measures.
Some even say that the president has become a totally different person since the impeachment crisis. Perhaps since then, President Roh’s economics have come to an end. The president’s characteristics were defined as embracing dialogue and smooth persuasion. But many things now swing with his characteristics and style.
This has been going on until now. Even though his lame duck status is accelerating, the president shows no sign of prudence. He seems to be determined to do things as he wishes, no matter what others say.
That is why Mr. Roh’s economy should be understood through psychology, instead of studying economics.

* The writer is the CEO of the JoongAng Ilbo News Magazine.


by Lee Chang-kyu
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