[Viewpoint]Fatherly love, the undoing of the powerful

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[Viewpoint]Fatherly love, the undoing of the powerful

Korean parents are noted for the love they feel for their children. It’s not easy to find other countries where such fierce devotion is manifested toward offspring. People who are otherwise cool-headed often lose their sense of judgment when it comes to their children.
There are parents who spend most of their income on private education for their children, and couples willingly choose to live apart for years so their children can be educated abroad.
Although the young generation stopped taking responsibility for their parents’ welfare a long time ago, parents still pour all they have into their children.
This is the reason why we hear, all too frequently, stories of fathers who have brought ruin upon themselves because of their sons. The men in the news last week were Kim Seung-youn, chairman of Hanwha Group, and Kim Hong-up, who won a by-election for the constituency of Muan-Sinan in South Jeolla province.
Chairman Kim willingly became the protagonist of a real-life B-movie story when he decided to take revenge for an assualt on his second son at a high-priced room salon. The setting was Bukchang-dong near Seoul’s City Hall. The props included steel pipes, knives for slicing fish and an electric cattle prod; the cast included the chairman of a conglomerate, his son, who is studying at a prestigious university in the United States, employees of the salon and the business tycoon’s bodyguards who are regimented like soldiers in a crime organization.
And of course, there were the police, who failed to carry out a proper investigation until 50 days after the incident and are suspected of keeping the case quiet on behalf of Kim. So, the incident has all the elements of a pulp fiction drama.
Citizens, the press and other heads of big businesses are doubtless eyeing Chairman Kim with a jaundiced eye.
Kim Hong-up is the second son of former President Kim Dae-jung, who said before the election, “I know there is criticism of Hong-up’s candidacy,” but he did not ask his son to refrain from standing.
Lee Hee-ho, Kim Dae-jung’s wife, and Park Jie-won, former chief of staff under Kim, appeared at a candidates’ rally that was held in Muan marketplace one day before the vote, on April 25. Members of Kim Dae-jung’s family and people close to him came out to support the son. Now that he has been elected, Kim Hong-up’s every move will be interpreted by people in the ruling camp as a reflection of the elder Kim’s intentions. His son may have been successful, but Kim Dae-jung has disappointed even Honam residents by helping his son’s succession to his political seat. Everyone thinks the son will be a puppet.
There are also fathers who have failed because of their sons. Lee Hoi-chang, the Grand National Party’s presidential candidate in 1997 and 2002, was defeated because he was swept up in controversies over suspicions that his eldest son had been exempted from military service for fraudulent reasons and that his daughter-in-law gave birth in the United States to acquire American citizenship for her child.
Former President Kim Young-sam spent the last year of his term in office as a “vegetable president” because of his second son Hyun-chul’s inappropriate intervention in state affairs. When Kim Young-sam showed signs of giving support to a certain presidential candidate, politicians whispered, wondering whether “the presidential hopeful has given him a guarantee of party nomination for his son’s candidacy at the 18th general elections.”
If a son they love comes home with an injury requiring 10 stitches, most fathers in our society would probably want to run out and grab the person responsible.
One reason Chairman Kim Seung-youn did more than just order a retaliation and stepped in himself was probaly because of this sudden burst of emotion.
It is not hard to understand Kim Dae-jung, who saw his son suffer all his life because of the party politics he had indulged in. Kim Dae-jung might have had no choice but to submit to reproach when his fifty-plus-year-old son insisted that he wanted to go his own way.
However, Kim Seung-youn and Kim Dae-jung are not just any Korean father. One is the head of a big business conglomerate who wields enormous power and the other was a former president.
People with such overwhelming power should be able to exercise self-restraint and refrain from using it for personal interest. If people use their power as they wish, what difference is there between now and primitive times? The republic cannot survive if people apply the law of the jungle.

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

by Kim Du-woo
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