[VIEWPOINT]The government who cried ‘wolf’The doings of the current administration are truly appalling. The way it operates reminds me of an ancient tale. It is the tale of King You, the last king of the Western Zhou Dynasty. King You, who ascended to the throne in 781 B.C., had a concubine named Baosi. Baosi was the reigning beauty of the day but never smiled. The king offered an enormous reward and sought a way to make her smile. Guo Shifu, a treacherous flatterer, came up with an idea to set the beacon tower on fire, and convinced the king of his plan.
More than two dozen signal fires were lighted, one after another. It was the signal of an emergency, and the feudal lords led their troops to save the king hurriedly. Realizing it was all fake, the feudal lords were in dismay, and it made Baosi burst into laughter. In order to make Baosi laugh, the king did the same again and again. In 771 B.C., a real enemy attacked You’s kingdom. King You ordered the beacon fires lit, but no feudal lords came to help. The king was captured and killed, marking the end of the Western Zhou Dynasty.
About 200 years later, Aesop the Greek wrote “The Shepherd Boy Who Cried Wolf.” The Western and the Eastern civilizations developed a similar story because such an experience must have been universal. However, it is regrettable that a similar situation has happened in Korea today.
Since the first day, the administration bragged that it would control real estate prices no matter what. I wonder if there is even one citizen who believes in that big talk. At first, some trusted the government. When the administration threatened a “tax bomb,” some people thought the real estate boom was over. However, those who sold their houses then are regretting their decision. In the last few years, real estate prices have doubled, or even tripled in some areas. It is hard to find a precedent forthe rapid rise in real estate prices that has occurred in the Roh administration. While the government quickly changed directions to increase the supply, no one trusts the government that has already become “The Shepherd Boy Cried Wolf.” Minister of Construction and Transportation Choo Byung-jik, who is ridiculed as “Byung-jik the Kind,” advised potential buyers to delay purchasing a certain apartment because buying it now would cause them to lose money. Immediately after his comment, the prices rose by more than 100 million won, about $100,000. Despite the announcements of unlimited new town developments and a plan to lower the initial sale prices of units in new towns, the market is moving against the government’s intentions. The present state of real estate is clearly an abnormal boom, so the prices are bound to drop some day. I am worried about how the government will handle the chaos.
Thinking of the North Korean nuclear crisis gives me goosebumps. North Korea has been criticized as the boy who cried wolf for bragging about its nuclear program, but actually, it is the South Korean government that has been lying. When the allies warned of Pyongyang’s nuclear development, Seoul used to say it was not a problem. When Pyongyang launched a missile, Seoul insisted it must have been a satellite. Now that North Korea has conducted a nuclear test, the government argues that the military balance has still not been broken. At the same time, it was shaking the Korea-U.S. alliance from its roots. Who would believe in a government that changes its stance so easily when national security and the lives and security of its citizens are at stake?
However, not all shepherd boy stories end in tragedy. Ali Bey, who was a finance minister of King Abass of Persia, was a shepherd when he was young. He had gotten the treasury of the empire with integrity, winning the trust of the king. When King Abass passed away and his son ascended to the throne, those vassals who had been jealous of Ali Bey framed him. He was dismissed from his post, and his house was searched. His house was very humble for his high public position, and the searching party found a leather box there. The king, who thought that treasure must be hidden in the box, ordered Ali Bey to open it. However, the box contained a stick, a flute and a ragged robe from his shepherd days. Ali Bey kept them in order not to forget his humble beginnings, even after he became a minister. The king regretted his thoughtlessness and reinstated him to his position.
The Roh administration certainly did not decide to destroy the country from the beginning. It had good intentions, but was just not competent enough. It must have felt discrepancy between the ideal and the reality. When you are confused and lost, you’d better go back to the beginning.
It is not shameful to admit faults and mistakes. The more you try to cover them up, the more tangled the problems become. You should give up obsession and obstinacy and listen to the opinions of others. We still have enough time left. This shepherd boy story should finishe with a happy ending.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hoon-beom