Go-to-guy has goneFormer Prime Minister Goh Kun has decided not to run in the presidential election, an important and meaningful decision that offers significant lessons. For a long time he was the strongest presidential hopeful with an approval rating of over 30 percent. However, his approval rating has plummeted to 10 percent, placing him in third place among the hopefuls. Former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak has risen to become a strong contender. He has been assisted by the success of his project to uncover the Cheonggye Stream and by North Korea’s nuclear test. The governing party suffers from a low approval rating and is in a chaotic state over the formation of a new party. The creation of a new party with Mr. Goh as the chairman has not taken place.
People supported Mr. Goh for good reasons. He served as a minister three times, Seoul mayor twice and prime minister twice. When President Roh Moo-hyun faced impeachment, he was the acting president. A cursory examination of his experience suggests he is arguably Korea’s top civil official and administrator. In particular, he ran the country with a sense of balance when he was acting president, making a strong impression on the people. So, why did he fall?
The requirements of an administrative official and those of a political leader are different. A political leader needs to present concrete plans at every phase. Since the governing party suffered a crushing defeat in last year’s local elections, Mr. Goh has adopted a passive strategy. He thought that the ruling party, in the midst of panic and crisis, would have no choice but to nominate him. Instead of stepping forward and trying to resolve the chaos, he waited, hoping for a windfall.
However, the ruling party did not react as Mr. Goh expected. It started to falter, dragging him, the party’s possible presidential candidate, down as well. This incident shows that our society has become more mature. A political leader can no longer rest on the credit earned from past deeds when he or she displays a lack of guts in the present.
Mr. Goh’s decision to take responsibility for his own fall was a courageous decision that will be remembered as a meaningful example. Other presidential hopefuls and political leaders should also examine whether they are rated better than they deserve. Mr. Goh is one of the top senior leaders of our society. After retiring from the political arena, we hope that he will still contribute to the country, now that he is free from the corrosive influence of political aspirations.