[Viewpoint]Sohn now despised on both sidesIn this presidential election year, the ups and downs of the politicians are much more visible. It is October 2007, only two-and-a-half months before the presidential election. Who do you think is having the roughest and the most troublesome time among politicians? It must be former Gyeonggi Governor Sohn Hak-kyu. Having given up on their presidential hopes early on, former Prime Minister Goh Kun and former Seoul National University President Chung Un-chan might be feeling disappointment, but certainly not agony. They have already been at the height of their fields of specialty, and running for president was a matter of making an extra effort.
Goh and Chung might have gotten uncomfortable glares, but they were all momentary. Former Grand National Party Chairperson Park Geun-hye did not receive the party’s nomination as the presidential candidate, but she completed her share of accomplishments. She made a deep impression on citizens by accepting the result of the party primary. However, Sohn is standing in a completely different position. He is a politician, and his goal was to become president of the Republic of Korea. To accomplish his goal, he left the Grand National Party after 14 years, and he has earned a reputation of not accepting the primary outcome. If he had stayed with the Grand National Party, he could have been one of the top three candidates and played a role as a last-minute variable in the course of the primary. Both Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye would have gladly promised him the position of the No. 2 in the desperate situation. His presence was extremely valuable to the Grand National Party. He was a competent man and possessed what the Grand National Party lacked, namely healthy ethics. Many intellectuals and correspondents named him as the fittest politician for president.
However, Sohn turned down the evident vested rights and left the party. He could have become the party chairman or the prime minister when either Lee or Park became president, but he was not willing to be the second man in name only. A tempting offer from the ruling party, which had not yet found a promising presidential hopeful, also contributed to his decision. So Sohn made a decision. He was ready to conclude his ambition in this year’s presidential election. He thought he had a good chance.
With his record of struggle for democratization, he was not below any of the ruling party candidates. And with the achievements and competency he proved while serving as the governor of Gyeonggi Province, he thought he was a match for Lee Myung-bak. “Kim Young-sam merged his party with the Democratic Justice Party of the military regime, but he was still elected president. So why shouldn’t I be the next Kim Young-sam?” he must have thought. However, from the moment he left the Grand National Party, he stood naked in the vast wilderness in a cold winter and had to face a severe wind by himself.
President Roh Moo-hyun ridiculed him, saying his politics lacked principles. The ruling party candidates who initially welcomed him were eager to use him as kindling. Sohn accepted the disgrace of denying the Grand National Party primary, saying he was not willing to be a tool for other candidates. Nevertheless, he has become a tool for the United New Democratic Party’s primary. The UNDP demanded that Sohn show “repentance for his 14 years with the Grand National Party” and “respect for the Honam region.” As he refused to yield, the supporters from the UNDP turned their backs on him. When he secluded himself for several days because he was dissatisfied with the course of the new party’s primary, Grand National Party supporters gloated about his fall, and ruling party supporters ridiculed him. It is a pity that he is not welcomed by either side now.
Sohn must feel wretched about his situation. He must be devastated by the cold glares of the people. Now, he has only a few choices left, whether he should remain in the race or not, and if he fails, whether to leave politics altogether or aim at a comeback in the next presidential election.
No matter what he chooses, it will be very difficult to recover his past status. The world of politics is hard and cruel. When the time is not right, it might be wise to give up your dream.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo