[VIEWPOINT]Nominee has already changed beliefsWhen the nation is in a state of confusion, we naturally look for wisdom and insight from our predecessors. That is why I recently picked up the book “How to Keep High Principles” written by the poet Cho Ji-hun (1920-1968).
The introduction of the book reads as the following: “The high principle is the belief that burns in our heart to save our pure spirit. It is also the sincere wishes of our tears, cool-headed conviction and even a noble struggle taking place in ourselves.”
As a standard for judging the leader of a country, those who understand how precious the high principle is for the dignified mien of scholars, how powerful it is for the enlightenment of the people and how much severe pain has to be paid to keep it, first try to gauge the leader’s high principles.
Almost half a century has passed since the book was written, but we still find it difficult to find traces of high principle nowadays.
I would like to see a man of high principle in Kim Shin-il, the deputy prime minister-designate of education and human resources development, who will undergo nomination hearings this week at the National Assembly, because he has led the life of a respected scholar so far.
However, Mr. Kim’s attitude after his nomination makes us worry about whether he will meet the people’s expectations.
Mr. Kim was scheduled to deliver a paper on “The Vision and Strategy for Korea’s Future Education” at a seminar sponsored by the Presidential Committee on Education Innovation. But he cancelled the delivery of the paper on Sept. 3, two days ahead of the scheduled seminar, as he was named deputy prime minister-designate of education. The paper, which reflects vividly the scholarly view of the old professor, had been printed already.
In this paper, Mr. Kim pointed out that there were three fundamental problems in Korean education.
The first is the stiff uniformity of education, due to the government’s strict controls.
The second is the poor educational infrastructure, due to the failure of the education investment policies.
The third is the loss of the educators’ spirit, which resulted from the prolonged state of our education situation. He even said reform efforts tended to make things worse than before.
Quoting a report by the World Bank on Korean education, Mr. Kim emphasized that government control of the overall educational system under which the government regulated not only the type of school, but also the enrollment, curriculum, employment of teachers, amount of school fees and even adoption of textbooks, has made education inflexible. He also said the rigidity and uniformity of government control has caused our education to lose excellence and equality.
As a remedy, he proposed promoting the diversification of our school system and, in an urgent manner, making the operation of the educational process as a whole more flexible. In short, Mr. Kim’s scholarly beliefs on education, which are written in his undelivered paper, are completely different from the participatory government’s view on education, which pursues a standardized education for everyone.
When the press revealed the differences between Mr. Kim’s beliefs and the government’s policy, Mr. Kim clarified his position, through an official of the Ministry of Education in charge of public relations: “The direction of the policy guideline of the participatory government and that of my idea on education policy are basically on the same line.”
He also expressed his view that “there can be differences between the opinion of a scholar that is expressed freely without any conditions attached and ideas which are developed into concrete government policy.”
However, there doesn’t seem to be much in common between the direction of Mr. Kim’s ideas, including the content of the paper mentioned above, and the current government’s policy guidelines.
An immature young scholar can change in the future. But Mr. Kim, who retired from Seoul National University in February this year, is one of the senior scholars in the educational world.
It is not an expression of modesty or discreetness that such a seasoned scholar says his scholarly belief and policy can be different. In the eyes of society and the ears of common sense, it can be seen and heard as a remark made without high principle.
Master Cho Ji-hun said in his book “How to Keep High Principles”: “If you want to see the man, you better see what he did in the later half of his life.”
Now, it is time for us to see Mr. Kim’s real ideas and beliefs, through the confirmation hearing at the National Assembly. Through his defense, we will see how consistent he’s kept his “high principles.”
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong