[Viewpoint]Let’s ease up on the Roh adulation

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[Viewpoint]Let’s ease up on the Roh adulation

People say, “Too much is as bad as not enough,” and “Being too polite is impolite.”
Politicians, civic group activists and the press are suffering from extreme schizophrenia over the Korea-United States free trade agreement. News of the settlement has confused people who are used to black-and-white principles, such as progressives versus conservative or left wing versus right wing.
The news was less of a shock to the progressive and the left-wingers because they have kept their distance from President Roh Moo-hyun for some time. The conservative forces are the ones actually in a state of confusion.
Perhaps this is why their judgments about President Roh seem a little excessive.
Consider the statements made by people who have been the most critical of the current administration. Kim Young-gap, a Grand National Party lawmaker who stands on the farthest right of the ideological spectrum, praised the agreement highly, calling it “the economic declaration of democratization comparable to the June 29 declaration of democratization in 1987.”
Cho Kab-je, who has strongly attacked the current administration from the beginning, sang the praises of the president, saying, “A person with the spirit of resistance and challenge like President Roh displays superhuman abilities when fighting against people with a vested interest.”
Even legislator Chough Soon-hyung, who played a leading role in the move to impeach President Roh, said, “I rate highly the conviction and determination that the president has shown in the process of the free trade agreement negotiations.”
President Roh’s leadership deserves praise for overcoming the strong protests of his supporters and bringing about a free trade agreement with the United States.
It is fortunate that the president has finally paid attention to the economy and market opening. However, in praise or in criticism, too, there is a line that one should not cross. Using such terms as “determined to save the nation” or “national hero” makes us blush in shame.
Why are people overreacting like this? Is it because they are embarrassed? They probably feel uncomfortable for having called President Roh “left-wing” all this time and doubting that “the president had any intention to promote the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.” Instead, they might have thought he planned to use it as a political strategy to unite the forces loyal to him in their opposition to a free trade agreement before the presidential election is held in December.
They probably overpraised him because it is illogical to insist on calling him a left-winger even after he pushed through the free trade agreement, and because it is inappropriate to claim a conspiracy now that the free trade deal agreement has been reached.
It may be like the mindset of parents who scolded their child for spending too much of their allowance, but found out later that the child used the money to help a friend whose family was in a difficult situation.
Embarrassment about their behavior and the praiseworthiness of their child’s deed might have created a synergy effect, causing them to compliment the child excessively.
Even so, isn’t it right that they apologize for their misunderstandings first and offer compliments later?
There is another thing that I cannot understand. It is the blind faith in the free trade agreement.
The conclusion of the agreement does not mean our exports will automatically increase and our country will become an advanced country in the blink of an eye. Then why are we in a festive mood, as if we have just won a World Cup? Needless to say, the press is largely responsible for this. Indeed, this is why the Blue House said, “We feel dazzled by the attitude of some of the press.”
Now, we merely need to get a tool to keep China off our tail and catch up with Japan. We have only laid down stepping stones to rise up to enter the era of $20,000, $30,000 and $40,000 per capita incomes. If we take our eyes off the stones, we will fall off. If companies, the people and the government fail to gain competitiveness, we may end up being subjugated by the U.S. economy, forget making economic growth. The Korea-U.S. free trade agreement is a medicine if used well, but a poison if misused.
We have had enough of the congratulations and praise. No, we already have too much of them. Even if it was out of a strategy to keep the resistance of the opposition forces at bay, it is time to gain cool-headedness again. It is time to clearly inform people that the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement is a “double-edged sword,” and put all our efforts into finding out how to use this sword for our national interest.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Du-woo
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