[Viewpoint]A good leader knows how to lose

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[Viewpoint]A good leader knows how to lose

You cannot expect much from politicians. They are neither ethical nor rational. Anyone who wants to be someone with nothing to be ashamed of under heaven becomes a religious figure or a poet. A person who pursues clear-cut logic becomes a scholar, and those who want to change the world with ideologies or ideas become philosophers or revolutionaries.
It is easier to understand politicians if you simply consider that they are much more selfish and egotistical than normal people, and have a strong desire for power.
Kim Yoon-whan, a former chairman of the New Korea Party who died a few years ago, said, “The first thing politicians want to do is be re-elected. The second is to raise more political funds and the third is to be appointed to a high post in the party or in the cabinet.”
If a politician gives priority on the national and public interest, he or she is a good politician, according to this standard. But, if a politician makes the national and public interest the first, second and third, that is, all top three priority, then he or she is a great politician.
Even if we take into account the politicians’ natural selfishness, the political reality we are witnessing now in Seoul has gone too far to put into words. It is too disappointing to persevere. There is not one single politician who gives the people hope and joy, not even for a minute.
In 2002, National Assemblyman Kim Won-ki, who later became the speaker of the National Assembly, joined President Roh Moo-hyun’s camp during the Democratic Party primary for its presidential candidate.
Considering the political weight of Kim Won-ki in the party, it was a surprise that he volunteered to work for Roh.
He explained his reason as follows:
“Lee Ki-taek was chairman of the Democratic Party. The supreme council members of the party were busy trying to secure power within the party’s posts. But Roh Moo-hyun didn’t try to get any allies in the party leadership positions while other supreme council members frantically tried to appoint, as much as possible, more party members from their side to important posts. Therefore, I thought, ‘Roh is a good politician.’”
The number of candidates who have expressed an intention to run in the presidential election is already in the double-digits. There are candidates who are equipped with high ethical standards and sense of balance, and there are presidential hopefuls who know little about the economy but have advanced knowledge in state affairs. Of all those candidates, however, no one comforts or touches the hearts of the people.
Not many people are able to do as Roh did, that is, to threaten their own party by saying, “I might bolt from the party and run as a candidate of the Reform Party,” when his party gave him a hard time, and reject a contract for power sharing with Chung Mong-joon when the latter demanded from Roh a written statement as a condition for withdrawing from the presidential race. The personal magnetism of the nickname “Stupid Roh Moo-hyun” lies in such decisions as going forward with the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement even though he knew his supporters would turn their backs on him, and promoting a reform of the national pension system, which no previous administration dared touch. That is why his approval rating suddenly jumped from almost 10 percent to 30 percent.
Which other presidential candidate acts this way? If Roh Moo-hyun were to run in the presidential race this year, I wonder whether a candidate could beat him, despite his many weak points.
The two candidates from the Grand National Party fought over the strange primary election rules that the people could not even understand, and then compromised.
Now, they proudly shout out, “I made concessions.” How can this be “big politics,” as Lee Myung-bak said, or “rules,” in the words of Park Geun-hye?
There is nothing but a show of force between the two factions and the side effects of little selfish wiles from the wrangling between them. The people are not inspired by the meaningless fight. The fact that there has been no change in their approval ratings is the proof.
The current “grand coalition” of all of the pro-government political factions is also a play on words.
It is nothing more than changing the wrapping paper, leaving the content intact to cheat the people’s eyes.
Let’s accept their excuses and consider that they are doing this as a last resort because they cannot just sit and wait to die.
Then what do they mean when they say a certain politician cannot be a candidate because he was responsible for the failure of state affairs and another cannot be a candidate because he is too close to Roh?
The Uri Party, the unified new party faction and the Democratic Party are all about the same in the eyes of the people. It is frustrating to see the narrow-mindedness of the present administration, which, for the trial operations of the Gyeongui and the Donghae railway lines between the South and the North, has left former Unification Minister Chung Dong-young with the excuse that “presidential candidates are not allowed to ride,” while including lawmaker Kim Won-wung, who announced his intention to stand in the party primary.
There are two ways to move the people; either by giving them benefits or by touching their hearts. Leadership comes from knowing how to lose. Korean society is currently thirsty to be moved by emotion. The people do not expect politicians to unfold big politics or impress them with emotions. I hope politicians will at least make a gesture as if they were trying to do so.

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

by Kim Du-woo
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