[Outlook]The greater good

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[Outlook]The greater good

One hundred days before the presidential election, Korean politics is taking on a rough-and-tumble shape.
We can not help worrying about the future of our democracy, for which we have been through so many difficulties and made so many sacrifices. A fundamental question is whether this confusion and regress are unavoidable elements of democratic politics, or if they are preventable if a political leader has the right qualifications and makes the right choices.
At least to appease one’s frustration, I intend to review the creative democratic leadership found in Germany and France which demonstrates the healthy foundations of democracy and its efficiency.
Those cases will have implications for our political situation. Surely the background and culture of European politics are different from ours, but I believe we should not hesitate to refer to democracy’s success stories as an urgent call to upgrade our own politics.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was recently selected by a magazine as the most influential woman in the world. She has been nominated as a world leader although she was not previously known for having a particular charisma or political power. This is because she provides responsible leadership and works with a consistent principle.
Merkel raised the issue of human rights violations against Iraqi war prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp when she met President Bush.
She asked him to join the global initiative to address climate change, too.
She also stood up for human rights issues and freedom of the press in Russia in her meeting with President Vladimir Putin. To the leaders of China, Merkel repeatedly emphasized the importance of human rights, welfare, an open society and a free press, as well as economic cooperation.
Her international press for fundamental principles is remarkable in that such a consistency does not mar international partnerships or economic cooperation with those countries.
Germany’s relationships with the United States, Russia and China are more active than ever in reality.
Merkel’s decision to pursue both principles and trust lies in contrast to the work of former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who would not raise human rights issues with Russia or China, says a columnist of the International Herald Tribune.
This shows the traditional ground is now changing so that the Social Democratic Party, which claims to be progressive, is no longer taking the lead in human rights and environmental issues.
Instead, the leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, who leads a coalition government with the SDP, takes both domestic and international leadership in human rights and climate change. The progressive parties of Korea should be seen in this light when they assert human rights and dictatorship issues should be avoided in order to have talks with North Korea.
The so-called progressive party leaders, who fought until recently for democracy, close their mouths on those issues these days. Who, then, is going to carry the flag of human rights and free government?
Meanwhile, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who defeated a Socialist Party candidate by a large margin, has launched an ambitious project to make France one of the most influential countries in international politics.
Acknowledging that the energy to reach such a goal starts with a national consensus, he begins his government with a surprisingly inclusive membership.
He gave the positions of foreign affairs minister and European affairs minister to opposition party members and nominated Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who is also from the opposition, to lead the International Monetary Fund.
Sarkozy’s footprint reminds our politicians of the basic principle for grasping political power.
Harmony within a political party is of first and foremost importance for a party leader during a presidential election, unless his or her goal is just to get the party presidency.
If protecting the national interest and national pride in international politics or inter-Korean relations is the highest goal, politicians should place priority on obtaining a national consensus regardless of political differences.
Politicians who instigate friction or disunion among people for the sake of their personal interest to grasp political power rather than the national good should be quickly evicted.

*The writer, a former prime minister, is an adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Hong-koo
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