[Outlook]The truth can hurtI hate to admit it but sometimes I am hesitant about revealing a truth, particularly when it will make others feel uncomfortable or will inconvenience them. I had such an experience a long time ago.
About 10 years ago, I was chasing down the crimes of a group. One day, I got a phone call. The caller said, “I know who you are. Drop the case.” It was a simple, straightforward and threatening message. I said, “I am not going to.” Then, the person said, “I will kill you.” The faces of my family members flashed through my mind for a split second. But I did not want to step back so I said, “Well, life is hard enough anyway. I’d be happy if somebody kills me.”
Days later, I met the caller face-to-face. He threatened that he would let his guys attack my newspaper company and then said he would give me money if I did not write an article about them. But I did not back off. I had several solid pieces of evidence. Eventually, the newspaper ran the article. While the article was being edited, many colleagues expressed concern about my safety.
Fortunately, there was no revenge. Many people, including the one who threatened me, were all arrested and convicted. The whole story was uncovered. It was a happy ending for me as a journalist. But I did not dare to tell my family what actually happened. It is still a secret to my family.
After a little while, something else happened and that left me with some bitter and sad feelings. A lawmaker was investigating the same story just like I was doing. Right after the article was run in the newspaper, he had a press conference to reveal the story. It was a sensible act to avoid the risk of being the first person to tell the story. That showed the truth is not only inconvenient, but can be rather dangerous.
The movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary film by Al Gore, who gives lectures on the climate crisis, made a lot of people in the world uncomfortable. That movie bears a lot more weight than my scoop. The message of the movie is that greenhouse gases raise temperatures of the air, continents and oceans so the planet will face a tremendous disaster before this century ends. The movie also urges that we need to know the importance of environmental issues, change our lifestyles to minimize emissions of greenhouse gas. Thanks to this movie, Al Gore won an Oscar and the Nobel Peace Prize. He also became one of the most influential politicians in the world.
Gore’s warning against global warming was a dangerous disclosure because it is at odds with the interests of the United States government. The United States consumes more energy than any other country and emits more than 36 percent of total greenhouse gases. Right after entering office in March 2001, President George W. Bush decided to withdraw his country from the Kyoto Protocol. That meant he did not want to abide by regulations put on greenhouse gas emissions. As Gore raises his voice, other countries condemn the United States even more.
It is not hard to guess that if the former vice president and a potential candidate for the presidency talks about an issue that will inconvenience his own country, he will meet obstacles in his political circle. In 1980, then Congressman Gore led a congressional hearing on global warming, an issue that did not draw much attention at that time. While serving as vice president in the Bill Clinton administration, he worked to adopt the Kyoto Protocol. He traveled around the world and delivered more than 1,000 lectures to emphasize the seriousness of the issue.
Even inside the United States, many agree with him on the issue. Early this year, the CEOs of the top 10 companies in the United States, including General Electric, urged President Bush to introduce emissions trading in order to reduce greenhouse gas. That proves that the United States respects universal values and is ready to undertake an important task for the betterment of humankind. Just as Gore risked his political career, the U.S. society’s maturity of judgement should be highly evaluated.
Less than two months are left before the presidential election in Korea. Many issues will be raised and hot debates will be held. This time, a fundamental issue that will decide the future of the country must be presented.
We need to have debates and then come to a consensus. The presidential candidates should say what has to be said, rather than what people want to hear. The presidential candidates must tell an inconvenient and dangerous truth and the people must be patient enough to listen to it. I hope for such a mature election campaign.
*The writer is the senior editor of the sports and culture desk of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Ha-kyung