[Outlook]Hopefuls mostly disappoint

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[Outlook]Hopefuls mostly disappoint

With some four months to go before the presidential election, I feel sad when I look at political parties struggling to produce a presidential candidate. I feel that way not only because the aspirants are busy with negative campaigns to win party primary elections.
What’s more important than winning is what they will do to lead the country in the direction that people want for the next five years. But it is hard to find the answers to that question. We want to see how well-prepared candidates are to assume the presidency and not to disappoint voters.
In the United States when Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter were running for president, they acted quite differently. It might have been six months before the election so they could not be sure whether they would be elected or not. But they each formed a team for personnel affairs and chose candidates for cabinet members and prepared inauguration speeches. The Korean presidential hopefuls must learn a lesson from them.
When a candidate is elected president, he or she takes an enormous responsibility. The president represents the country, takes charge of the administration, normalizes ties or signs treaties with other countries, proposes national budget and works to improve the economy. The president does this work not as an individual but as the president. He or she does not work alone but with aides together as a team. The president carries out duties in accordance with the Constitution, laws and regulations. The president must play by the rules but at the same time, he or she must have a sense of the times.
I took part in a project to evaluate presidential hopefuls for three months, and the findings were reported for three days starting Aug. 6 in the JoongAng Ilbo.
We tried to determine if the presidential hopefuls are capable of reading changes that may arise in the world between 2008 and 2013, representing the country and steering it in the right direction.
If what we did were compared to grape farming, we did more than taste grapes. We attempted to see the lay of the land and factors that affect taste, such as climatic conditions, the soil and surroundings. After the evaluation was done, I had the impression that most presidential hopefuls are busy winning the election and are not prepared to be president.
To a request to release part of their inauguration speeches, only two were able to do so. Park Geun-hye’s speech is about building the foundation of the country, a small government and a large market. Chung Dong-young plans to maintain peace, growth and democracy.
Some plan to protect domestic industries, so they seem to have little understanding of globalization. When forming policies, some try to analyze certain policies with logic instead of believing in their intuition. Some do not seem ready for the future.
But some present concrete plans. Lee Myung-bak plans to build an “Asian knowledge platform.” Park plans to create a Northeast Asia development bank, Chung plans to establish the Northeast Asian energy network. These are good examples of preparing for the future.
A presidential candidate looks at the world in a certain way. When the person is elected president, he or she must leave the candidate worldview behind.
We expected presidential hopefuls to have a perspective into a bigger picture, a larger world and a distant future. The presidential hopefuls’ plans and pledges must be based on developments in science and technology and changes in the world.
Experts in a variety of fields took part in the evaluation. We held many discussions, did surveys and analyzed the results, receiving information that other surveys did not receive from the presidential candidates. We believe that we opened new horizons for evaluating presidential aspirants. We presented a firm basis from which the voters can make rational decisions.
However, this evaluation is not sufficient to reveal all the competencies and qualifications of the presidential hopefuls. The survey had around 100 questions in the beginning but it was reduced by half to save time. Not all answers were included in the analysis.
There is a saying that leadership in the 21st century is about sharing leadership. What’s left for now is to see with whom the president will spend five years in office.
Even if the president is a great person as an individual, if his or her aides are not good enough, there will be serious problems. Even if the president is not the best individual, the people can be relieved only if he or she is supported by a great team of aides.
That’s why we need to see what the president will be like and who will be on his or her team.

The writer is a professor emeritus of Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

By Kim Kwang-woong
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