[Outlook]The pendulum swings‘The spirit of the Uri Party -- opposing regionalism and uniting all Koreans -- is my most precious value, one that I have pursued for the past 20 years, making all types of sacrifices. This value is so precious that it has become more than a political goal. It has become the central tenet of my life. But the Uri Party is falling. What should I do?”
This is part of a posting on the Blue House’s Web site, written by President Roh Moo-hyun. His logic is clear. As he said, he has devoted to his entire life to a single value. According to his principles, he walked a tough road and became president. But the party that he set up is collapsing. Politicians are closing or opening new parties, splitting regions, forming groups that serve their self-interest and moving from one party to another in order to become the president or members of the National Assembly. It’s the old familiar problem of the political circle. It is natural that Roh, who is a politician himself, is upset.
Roh is good at writing. He uses persuasive logic. He moves readers. Even though he denies it, he is still a strategist. He said that one of the party’s presidential hopefuls argues that the party must be disassembled and another says he will give up the party primary. Pointing to Kim Geun-tae and Chung Dong-young, two former party chairmen, the president asks, “Are these the same people who read the declaration of the party that said we would remove regionalism and unite all Koreans?” Roh goes on, saying that if things have become so bad that the party must be shut down, they should quit their political careers as that’s the right way for them to meet their responsibility to the people.
But let’s think about this. The incumbent president in the presidential system is not an ordinary politician. Is it right that the incumbent president criticizes other politicians so severely with a presidential election near? Besides, Roh has left the Uri Party. President Roh has already criticized some contenders, including Goh Kun, Chung Un-chan and Sohn Hak-kyu.
It is a shame that the president has been given the nickname “the assassin” as he kills off presidential hopefuls. The president is not a professional writer, nor an editorial writer of a newspaper. Even though he feels heartbroken, he should bury his pain and live with it.
To abolish regionalism and unite the people are still important political targets. But they have become our basic values.
President Roh does not seem to understand that we desperately needed a new cause, new principles and a new direction that better suit our times. Twenty years have passed since the “1987 regime” was established. In that regime, a direct presidential election was adopted and the presidential term was limited to a five-year single term.
In particular, during the past decade, a consensus emerged that a leftist government cannot make our country into an advanced nation. So, Uri Party members must have figured out that it is hard to be elected to the National Assembly and to become the presidential candidate as long as they stay in Roh’s party. Their leaving and regrouping is a way for them to reflect on the wrongdoings and mistakes of the past decade, and a way of searching for a new regime for 2008. They now have to endure the pain of breaking out of their own shells. They should do so courageously and search for new values and a vigorous new direction.
The Samsung Economic Research Institute released a report that forecast global economic growth over the next 10 years. In 2006, the world’s GDP was $47.6 trillion. In 2016 Samsung says that will be $67 trillion. Who will get the newly created wealth, amounting to $20 trillion? How will it be shared? Based on current growth rates, the United States will take 24 percent, the members of the North American Free Trade Agreement will take 28.8 percent, the European Union 22.4 percent, and China will get 16.8 percent. Korea will collect merely 2.6 percent, if our automakers, semiconductor makers and ship builders are doing well. But these industries are likely to become more sluggish over the next 10 years.
We need to develop new industries, business and products to feed our growth. For that, the government, companies and workers must do their best. Regulations must be lifted. Companies must become more vital. A new system to train creative and talented people must be established. The presidential candidates who have plans like these, and the competence to carry them out, must present their blueprints and wait to be chosen by the people.
Saying a figure, such as a certain percentage of economic growth, is not enough. They must tell us how we can get a bigger piece of the $20 trillion pie. After the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement was signed, President Roh’s approval rating went up because people thought that the deal laid the foundation for a better life. We hope that the president will work hard to launch a new era during the dying days of his term, instead of worrying about the confusion created by the collapse of the 1987 regime. A pendulum swings right and left. At this moment it swings toward the right.
*The writer is a senior editorial advisor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kwon Nyong-bin