[Viewpoint]Roh should remember the forgottenThe election of President Roh Moo-hyun in 2002 was an event in Korean politics. He is a poor farmer’s son whose official education ended at a local commercial high school. Later, he studied on his own to pass the state bar examination and become a lawyer. Despite his success, however, he stayed outside of the mainstream of Korean society.
Because he has mainly led life as a social minority, his election to the presidency was even more dramatic. When he proclaimed he would build “a society without prerogatives and foul play” and “a society where common sense prevails,” the people leading humble lives got excited. It seemed that the conventional wisdom of mainstream society, that success required a good educational background, strong personal ties with the decision makers and plenty of money, wasn’t the case anymore.
Even Lee Myung-bak, then the mayor of Seoul, said, “If I were not a Grand National, I would have voted for Roh Moo-hyun.”
In that sense, his election meant something different, even after the election of former President Kim Dae-jung. It was the evidence that a new era had begun.
The success story of Roh Moo-hyun was also a good lesson for youngsters. Parents could tell their children that “life is more valuable if you find your own way, and you can achieve anything if you work hard enough.”
Roh Moo-hyun now is known as an incompetent president. That is the opinion, at least, of the majority of the people.
Ordinary people complain that their living conditions have deteriorated under the present government. The current government’s policies on real estate and education are called typical examples of policy failures. In connection with the people’s uneasiness about national security, there is a heated debate about whether President Roh’s failures in national security will result in the collapse of society’s left-wingers. The Roh administration in the past four years has been full of failures.
A more serious problem than the policy failures is that Mr. Roh’s failure is now seen as the failure of all minorities.
Once, an opposition party lawmaker said, “I think it’s desirable that someone with a university education and experience in state affairs is elected as next president,” creating a controversy.
However, we are now in a situation in which a considerable number of people agree with that lawmaker’s view, saying, “Yes, that’s right.”
In other words, there is a sign that our society is making a U-turn so that a person’s educational background, personal ties with influential people and possessions are the standards of success.
Mr. Roh’s failure does not stop at the failure of his presidency and the people around him. It is also a failure for the silent majority who welcomed him enthusiastically and gave him votes of support. This is the reason President Roh should not step down due to his failed presidency.
Sunday is the fourth anniversary of President Roh’s inauguration. He still has one year to go. Some may say that the last year is not long enough for the president to do anything meaningful, but that’s not true.
Even if it is not the revision of the Constitution, there are many things the president can do, if only he tries to see things through the eyes of those who welcomed him.
Even though it is belated, he should wipe away the tears of the ordinary people. Instead of debating with his advisers from the 386 generation, it would be better for the president to visit marketplaces that are empty due to lack of business and meet students who prepare for university entrance examinations by fighting against sleep and eating cold instant food.
How about visiting handicapped people, the homeless or runaway youths who live in our society without getting any attention.
He shouldn’t say, “What difference will it make?” but listen to them and shed tears with them.
Although he won’t make their purses full immediately, he can at least make them feel warm. Doing so is much better than putting blame on others by saying, “I am not responsible for making the people’s standard of living difficult. The problems were inherited from the previous administration.”
If the president did that, the people might say, “Although there were trials and errors, the president from a commercial high school was not so bad after all.”
President Roh should make the forgotten people of our society keep their hope. That is how he can reward the voters who elected him president.
*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Jung-min