[Outlook]Lee Myung-bak must change

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[Outlook]Lee Myung-bak must change

Those who believe this presidential election must produce a power shift must be feeling confused and bewildered now because support for Lee Myung-bak is dwindling. But they cannot choose Lee Hoi-chang because he did not play by the rules and principles.
The only thing they would dislike more would be giving the forces of the incumbent government another chance because the liberals need time to reflect on their wrongdoings and misdeeds.
These people think change fits the spirit of the times. They want to see a revived economy and education system and want to restore diplomacy and national security. They wanted Lee Myung-bak’s leadership since he used to be a CEO. But ironically, Lee is going through tough times because of his character, which used to be seen as a plus.
People in Lee’s camp must think there will be no problems once they overcome the BBK scandal. But that way of thinking is the problem. It is opportunistic. There is nothing wrong if a person with money invests in a company he finds fit. There is nothing wrong if he did not commit a crime, such as stock price manipulation.
But there is a fundamental problem. Why should the presidential election be decided by a criminal (Kim Gyeong-jun)? Do the people have to take responsibility for this situation? Why did Lee work with a defrauder? The person who aspires to become president is fighting with a swindler and goes around shouting, “He is a swindler!”
Lee should be ashamed of this. Rather than making accusations, he should feel sorry. All this happened because of his blind pursuit of financial gain at that time.
There is another wrongdoing that Lee should be even more ashamed of than the BBK scandal. He registered his children as workers at his company, which maintain his buildings, even though they did not work there. It is said that people who own buildings in southern Seoul evade taxes in that way. Did he do this because that is what others do? It happened in March this year when competition to earn the party’s presidential nomination was fierce.
It was too cheap a trick for a person whose wealth is valued at a 100 billion won ($109 million dollars). He seems to think it is no problem because he paid the tax belatedly. However, that attitude is more of a problem. What can he say to youngsters who admired him as a role model? He must do better than tell the tale of “a poor boy who becomes a rich CEO.”
People anticipate Lee’s competence for the job. However, the work of a president is different from that of a CEO, just as public figures or civil servants are different from persons who work for private bodies. The two require different skills and different ethics. In the private sector, it is important to maximize one’s gains. Individuals pursue their own interests. Individuals’ interests create balance and harmony and the whole society advances.
That is the logic of the market economy. However, things are different in the political arena. People in government mediate disputes in which individuals’ interests collide with each other. They must think of the entire community rather than only of themselves. Thus, to become a civil servant means to give up one’s individual gains. This is why civil servants need to register their properties.
The political arena and the economic one also require different types of leadership. In a company, if a person owns more than a 51 percent stake, he takes control of the company and can do whatever he wants with it. But in politics, a majority does not monopolize everything. Instead, rights of the minority are also respected. To be elected as president with a majority vote doesn’t mean the president can control the whole country as he wishes. The president instead needs to unify society and make sure no one is left out. The Grand National Party went through chaos because the winner in the primary thinks he owns the party.
In a company, leadership lies in achieving goals. Leaders must win bids, no matter what it takes. A good leader completes a construction project within a deadline using all the possible means and resources.
But it is different in politics. Procedures are as important as results.
One needs to think about whether laws were followed, whether people were sacrificed and how to console losers in elections. Competent leadership in the economic field might turn out to be rather bad in politics.
Lee’s real problem is not the BBK scandal but the fact that he hasn’t shed his old self. If he can’t rid himself of the obsession and attachment to acquisitions that he had as a little boy, he cannot pursue higher values.
If his former goal was to maximize his own profits, he should give that up. Then he will be qualified to be a public figure.
To win his bid for a “new job,” he must change his values and prove to the people that he has done so. The new road will then open before him.

*The writer is the vice publisher and chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Moon Chang-keuk
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