Presidential ignoranceOne of President Roh Moo-hyun’s problems has long been his imprudent use of words. He admitted in a recent interview that when he became president he had not been trained to talk like a president. His other flaws include a distorted view of Korea’s modern history, hostility against mainstream society and a negligence of the Constitution.
He also has incomplete knowledge. He talks as if he is well aware of important affairs of Korea and the world, but that is not the case. He is like a student who finishes a test before the time is up, proudly submits the answer sheet and leaves the classroom ― then gets a very low score. Sometimes it is hard to believe Roh passed the national bar examination.
In a recent lecture to chief executives of innovative start-up companies, Roh said conservatism traditionally takes a confrontational foreign policy, as the United States and Japan’s have recently done. He concluded that conservatism always pursues confrontation and that progressivism is closer to peace.
He probably said so because of the U.S. administration’s attack on Iraq and Japan’s Pacific War. But his logic is not right. The Tony Blair administration of the progressive Labour Party actively took part in the attack on Iraq. Former President Jacques Chirac of France protested the war, even though he was conservative. The U.S. Democratic Party-led administration expanded the Vietnam War.
Neither conservatism nor progressivism decides war or peace. That depends on a nation’s interests. If we follow President Roh’s logic, the United Kingdom would not have waged war in the Falkland Islands when Argentina invaded if the administration had been of the Labour Party, not Thatcher’s conservative administration. We can ask whether the Kim Il Sung regime in North Korea, which waged the Korean War, and the former Soviet Union, which invaded Afghanistan, were conservatives or progressives.
President Roh often says that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada exemplified the need to stick to our convictions if they do good to our country in the long run even if they cause approval ratings to drop temporarily. After Mulroney’s conservative party introduced a new goods and services tax, his party won only two seats. But thanks to the new tax, the country saw a surplus and its economy revived. But there were other factors that caused Mulroney’s defeat. The surplus was more the result of the revived economy, rather than the increased tax. Many economists say those taxes brought on the worst, longest slump in Canada’s history.
In January 2003, in his inaugural speech, Roh talked about trust, fairness, integrity, discipline, devotion and responsibility as virtues required of a leader. He did not talk about knowledge, probably because he lacks it.