Credit where it’s dueA president who has only nine months left on his term should try to be modest. Yet President Roh’s historical perspective is far from that, as when he claimed the forces of the democracy movement as a form of self-compliment. As soon as his popularity bounced back from 10 to 30 percent, due to factors such as the Korus Free Trade Agreement, his arrogance and parochialism returned.
During his May 18 memorial address, President Roh declared that democratic forces have been writing a new history. Denouncing the achievements of the military regimes as based on the illegitimate thievery of other people’s opportunities, he dedicated every possible praise to the decade of Kim Dae-jung and Roh’s presidencies: calling a knowledge-based, innovation driven economy; the undeniable era of a $30,000 GDP; a society in which freedom and creativity flourish; pacifism as the major tide; a cooperative relationship between Korea and the United States based on reciprocal respect and so forth all the achievements of the democratic force.
This president, who says he has sometimes been unaware of the outside world, was always deeply moved by the status of the Korean economy whenever he traveled overseas.
The admirable status of the Korean economy is based on the 1970s “miracle of the Han River” which can be attributed to the developmental dictatorship that concentrated the nation’s energies and focused on building an export-driven economy. This is a fact that many experts in the world, including the World Bank, confirm. Nevertheless the president highlights only the authoritarian aspect of the developmental dictatorship and condemns its efficiency.
In his annual speech to the nation last January, President Roh criticized the Kim Dae-jung administration, saying that it had imposed an enormous burden on the economy by repealing real estate regulations and condoning an increase in household loans. However, in last week’s address, he singled out the Kim administration for praise, citing the economic achievement of the democratic administration and concealing the problems it caused. The ideologically tinted spectacles that polarize everything into democracy versus anti-democracy can radically change one’s vision as soon as they are put on.
The Roh economy does look sound according to some indexes. But the reality is different. Companies have moved their production bases overseas, and the number of individuals who struggle with debts has increased 2.5 times over last year. Headaches remain in a promise to build a new administrative capital, which has been ruled a violation of the Constitution. Beneath the surface of Roh’s murky pacifism lies the threat of the North Korean nuclear power. Instead of mutual respect, the U.S. has developed a distrust of South Korea. Beautifying these wrongs is nonsensical.