[OUTLOOK]Roh needs to face realityI do not intend to take what President Roh Moo-hyun said Tuesday about the possibility he might resign at face value. I instead want to believe that it was his way of expressing frustration that he had to withdraw Jeon Hyo-sook as his nominee for the chief justice position at the Constitutional Court.
He also must have felt incompetent, as his tenure nears its end. He must have wanted to show his feelings for the Uri Party, as he believed that his party did not help him when he needed it. Despite all these facts, his remark is still shocking.
It was not the right thing for the Grand National Party to hang a placard or to occupy the platform at the National Assembly in an attempt to block the approval of Ms. Jeon. But still, the law stipulates that the president needs approval from the National Assembly when employing some government officials, as a way to prevent arbitrary handling of personnel affairs by the president. Our society reached a consensus on that after it became democratic.
The president faced difficulties and opposition when he attempted to employ a certain person and so had to withdraw that nomination. That is a natural procedure, but the president laments that he cannot even exert his right to employ people at his will. That is an inappropriate attitude.
If the president wanted to employ a certain person in a certain post for which the National Assembly’s approval was required, he should have induced support from the public or persuaded the opposition parties. If he could not do that, he should have chosen a less controversial figure.
Mr. Roh failed to use political skills, instead mentioning the possibility of reducing his tenure just because he could not do what he had wanted. That response is an overreaction.
Another problem is President Roh’s perception of the roles of the opposition parties and the parliament. He has said in a grave tone that if he needs to compromise or surrender to better discharge his duties during his tenure he would do that.
The words “compromise” and “surrender” seem to imply that it is highly likely that he will face humiliating situations and that will be hard for him to endure. He probably talked about the possibility of resigning because he perceives the situation in that way.
In fact, politics is the art of achieving your goals through compromise, retreat and concessions, if necessary. President Roh’s rhetoric makes people wonder if he thinks politics is a zero-sum game in which people fight and end up either winners or losers.
President Roh recently suggested forming a council of the ruling party, opposition parties and the Blue House. But no matter how friendly the situation may be, opposition parties will always find it difficult to participate in such a meeting led by a political rival. Mr. Roh has not made any efforts to build trust from the leaders of the opposition parties or to engage them before making such a suggestion. He made a suggestion that imposes a heavy burden out of the blue and feels frustrated that other parties do not welcome it.
There is a problem with his view of the ruling party. Lately, the approval rating for the president has dropped below 10 percent. Most citizens have few expectations of the president.
It may not impose a serious problem for the president because he can walk away when his tenure ends. However, the ruling party needs to produce his successor and has not presented any competitive candidates yet.
So, it is natural that the party does not want to be seen as being dragged along by a president who has implemented measures that most people oppose and thus has a record low level of support from the people.
If Mr. Roh had wanted to avoid this, he should have made efforts to keep the support of the people. That is almost the only way to avoid a lame duck status. To do so, he should have compromised or should not have hesitated to surrender earlier. Although belated, that seems to be the only way.
President Roh should try to better understand the reality, instead of lamenting the situation or threatening to resign.
*The writer is a professor of political science at Soongsil University.
by Kang Won-taek