[OUTLOOK]Government suffers power deficit

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[OUTLOOK]Government suffers power deficit

Every time our domestic politics falls into rough waters, we cannot help but bring up the term “deficit operation of power.”
Some people might laugh this term off, but the fact is our lack of awareness and our indifference is aggravating a very real and serious problem.
Everyone knows how dangerous a deficit operation is when talking about money. If the amount of money spent far exceeds the amount earned, bankruptcy follows, whether it’s a single household, a business or a country.
However, surprisingly few people seem to think about the consequences when political leaders of a country exercise more power than they have attained.
This is what is meant by a deficit operation of power.
The deficit operation of power in our country has reached serious heights today.
North Korea’s nuclear program, the readjustment of the Korea-U.S. alliance, the dwindling of the driving forces behind our economic growth, the negotiations for a free trade agreement with the United States and the chaotic situation of our real estate market are all current issues that require strong leadership from our government.
Strong leadership means exercising a greater amount of power than usual. Unfortunately, our government does not hold much power these days nor does it seem to have any means to gain the power it needs.
The way a government gains the power necessary to prevent or solve a deficit operation depends on what kind of a political system it operates under.
An authoritarian government might reinforce the oppressive means that it already uses to control the society. It might use a reign of terror to force the public into absolute obedience.
However, history has shown us numerous examples of how tragically such authoritarian governments end.
In the case of a democracy, where all power comes from the people, there are three ways for a government to prevent or solve a deficit operation of power.
First, it could put forward policies and figures that will appeal to the public in order to expand itssupport base. Second, it could find a partner force with which to form a coalition government. Third, whether it was originally right-wing or left, it could shift its political tendency and power center from its original right or left side into a more neutral zone.
We cannot deny that our government is now suffering a serious deficit operation of power.
Public support for the government is at dangerously low levels. Moreover, with the presidential elections only one year away, a lame duck president will make the situation worse.
In the midst of all these concerns, the president recently reshuffled his cabinet with the grave message to the public that he would do what he felt was right ― something that would in all probability drain the last reserves of any public support the government now holds. This, of course, forebodes an aggravation of the deficit operation of power.
Since the awakening of our democracy in 1987, our political history has been a repetition of governments going their own ways, only to swerve back to center right before the next presidential election. The merger of the three major parties before the 1992 presidential election, the union of Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil in 1997 and the agreement between Roh Moo-hyun and Chung Mong-joon before the 2002 presidential election are all examples of how the incumbent government tried to recover public support by changing its political colors. With national security in grave danger from the North Korean nuclear program and strife prevalent in our society, now is the time for our political leaders, both from the governing party and the opposition, to unite their wisdom and efforts to create a power base that the majority of the people can agree with.
Our politicians should beware of falling into the temptation of self-righteousness. Democracy is upheld only when people accept the fact that the thoughts and opinions of other people could be just as right as their own.
It is our duty as citizens to show the world and ourselves that Koreans value freedom and peace and wish for reunification. We should all agree that we might have been forced to delay our reunification for the sake of peace, but we will not give up our freedom.
Our government should avoid self-righteous actions, albeit proceeding from good intentions, that compromise our freedom.
This is the shortcut to expanding a middle-ground support base that could prevent our society from dividing into two and solve its current deficit operation of power.

*The writer, a former prime minister, is an advisor to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Hong-koo
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