[VIEWPOINT]The bovine approach to leadershipThere’s a joke about cows and presidents: Someone brought a cow to former President Park Chung Hee, so the late president sent it to a farmer; someone gave a cow to former President Chun Doo Hwan, who turned it into a feast; former President Roh Tae-woo kept the cow in his shed; former President Kim Young-sam gave the cow to his son, Hyun-chul; President Roh Moo-hyun, however, didn’t know what to do with the cow, so he simply pulled it around his front and back yards ― that’s how incompetent and unprepared Mr. Roh is.
According to a recent opinion poll, some 75.4 percent people agree that “President Roh wrongly manages state affairs.” This is the highest disapproval rating in the history of the presidential survey. This is also clearly compared to the fact that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan, who is reputed to be as “extraordinary and eccentric” as Mr. Roh is, enjoyed an average approval rating of 50 percent for the five years he has served as prime minister.
There is one more thing to say about this. The international ranking of the Korean economy has been downgraded two notches during Mr. Roh’s term of office.
A few days ago, Mr. Roh said, “Three-and-a-half years have passed since I was inaugurated, but the only thing I can remember is the fact that the country has been noisy.” Indeed, a Chinese weekly paper, a sister paper of the national China Daily, commented in its latest edition that, “The reform policy of President Roh has became a synonym for divisions over policy.”
Despite the bad reputation on his administration, Mr. Roh said his performance of his presidential duties over the past three-and-a-half years was “worthwhile,” although it has been hard for him.
In an interview with a broadcasting station on Thursday, Mr. Roh said, “I think that the economy should be studied separately from the livelihood of the people, and there are times when people are struggling even though the economy is doing well.” Instead of consoling people who suffer from difficulties in their daily lives, the president is busy defending his policy failures. The tactics of dividing people and passing the buck to others are always hidden somewhere among his sophistry. This time, he has even tried to divide the economy and the livelihood of the people.
When the scandal involving the Sea Story gambling game erupted, Mr. Roh said confidently, as if he had grasped the situation completely, “No faults of my own will be found, however hard one might investigate. It will instead be remembered as a model case in which the relatives of the president were completely removed from a corruption investivation.”
But later he passed responsibility onto his subordinates by saying, “When a thief succeeds in stealing, even the dogs do not bark.” It sounds more reasonable, however, that the master didn’t listen to the dog although the dog barked at the thief, or that the dog didn’t bark because the master himself was the thief.
Even amid this, President Roh put forward his “Vision 2030” policy, a blueprint for the nation’s future. If all things go as is presented in the plan, by the year 2030 Koreans will be free of worries regarding education, housing, medical care, childcare and old age. But the plan comes with a price tag: 1,100 trillion won ($1,150 billion) in taxes. Fundamentally, people are pessimistic about the plan, not because they don’t want to pay taxes, but because they doubt that the Roh administration has the legitimacy and ability to pursue such long-term plans. Even among the governing party lawmakers, there are people who say, “Instead of worries over cancer in the future, better to worry about the fish bone in your throat.”
Mr. Roh’s remaining time in office is not that long. I sincerely hope that he devotes himself to his duties by changing his thoughts and attitude so that he can spend the remainder of his term working for the livelihood of the people instead of for his personal worth, and that he behaves discreetly rather than playing sophistry games.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong