[VIEWPOINT]To revive, Roh needs silent treatment

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[VIEWPOINT]To revive, Roh needs silent treatment

Yasuhiro Nakasone, the former prime minister of Japan, personally believes that “politicians should experience moments of solitude occasionally.” He said politicians need to make time to take part in entertainment parties or mah-jongg games occasionally, but it is a must for them to have time for solitude. He wrote in his memoir “Politics and Life” that “when one is alone, one can reflect on oneself, have reverence and penitence toward nature, be awakened to the reality of human existence and make determinations with moral courage.”
When he was a member of parliament, he bought a farm house a little distant away from Tokyo and turned it into a cottage, namely “Hinode Cottage,” or “Sunrise House.” Whenever he confronted a difficult situation while working as a cabinet minister or as prime minister, he would visit the cottage. When I asked Mr. Nakasone about the cottage while interviewing him in Tokyo last week, he said he often visits the place even nowadays and sits there in meditation.
When he retired in 2003, Mr. Nakasone had been in politics for 56 years. As the prime minister of Japan, the post that is called “below one person, but above 10,000 people,” he had been at the helm of the “Invincible Aircraft Carrier Japan” for five years. He said that politics is like swimming in the sea where the warm and cold currents of a pure heart and dedication, as well as feelings of jealousy and hatred, cross. It means that politics is like the mandala, or universe, which is interwoven with human sentiments such as joy and anger, sorrow and pleasure, intrigue, betrayal and hostility. He advises, therefore, that although politicians need wisdom, they cannot cross the “sea of politics” if they are not armed with “the wisdom of success in life.”
He emphasized that politicians should not express their emotions directly or react simple-mindedly to outside changes. He meant to say that those who fail to respond to a changing environment because they are stuck in a certain ideology or cause are not qualified to be politicians. However loudly they may shout about social justice and the appropriateness of their causes, it is not politics if they do not work hard to accomplish their own ideals.
He said that is the difference between real politics and university lectures or sermons. “The wisdom of success in life” is necessary not only in politics, but also in international relations.
He recalled, during my interview with him, that “I studied Korean for about one year because I thought it regretful that Japanese politicians could not speak Korean, even though Korean politicians could speak Japanese.”
While serving in the cabinet as the minister of administration, it is said that he studied Korean through a Korean language lecture program by NHK television and from a Japanese journalist who had been the Seoul correspondent of a Japanese news agency.
As a result of such efforts, he spoke in Korean for nearly one-third of his dinner speech at the Blue House in 1983 when he visited Seoul for the first time. Also, at a banquet given in his honor by former President Chun Doo Hwan, he even sang a popular Korean song, “A Man in Yellow Shirts,” in the language. He said it was his “expression of friendship to the Korean people.”
He also said, “Diplomacy is the extension of personal friendship. The modern world is managed by the leadership and the confidence of world leaders, which is forged through personal friendship.”
The legendary friendship between former President Ronald Reagan of the United States and Mr. Nakasone, which was called the “Ron-Yasu friendship,” was the product of such diplomatic conduct by the former prime minister.
President Roh Moo-hyun’s remark, “I hope I will not be the first president who does not complete his presidential term in office,” has created a stir nationwide.
Political power cannot last forever and the lame duck phenomenon at the end of his term of office can bring frustration to the president.
However, as the head of state with the sworn duty to safeguard the Constitution, the president made a remark that he shouldn’t have. The last duty entrusted to him is to make sure the nation crosses the “sea of politics” safely in his remaining one year and two months.
I don’t know whether he is feeling lonely already, but I sincerely recommend that President Roh take time now to experience genuine solitude.
He should be in absolute solitude, without the presence of the secretaries and aides around him who share his code.
Mr. Nakasone was a successful politician by Japanese standards, although he may be a conservative, right-wing politician.
I hope President Roh reads Mr. Nakasone’s memoir and tries to figure out what is the true “wisdom of success in life” that politicians need.

*The writer is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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