[Viewpoint]Lee’s amazing run of luckWeaknesses can turn into strengths, and strengths can become weaknesses.
There are opportunities in crises, and crises are hidden in opportunities.
These are not just words to give yourself hope in a difficult situation or to think about when you are doing well. Anyone who works for a company or runs his own business goes through these kinds of experiences.
This paradox appears most starkly in the world of politics.
Being a good speaker is clearly an advantage, especially for a politician. However, in the world of politics, this common- sense truism is often turned upside down.
The strengths and weaknesses of former presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung, who have been lifelong rivals, were clearly in contrast.
Kim Young-sam exceeded Kim Dae-jung in taking action swiftly and had better political instincts. Kim Dae-jung, meanwhile, was a more logical politician with a vision for the future.
Kim Dae-jung was definitely a better speaker than Kim Young-sam.
Some even said, “Kim Young-sam’s vocabulary commands no more than 200 words.” But Kim Dae-jung was often faulted for “changing his words frequently” or being unreliable due to his smooth speaking.
In contrast, although Kim Young-sam went back on his word a number of times, they were not much of a problem for him, thanks to his slow and halting speech.
The same comparison can be made between Cho Soon, a former deputy prime minister for economy and finance, and Chung Won-shik, a former prime minister. The two ran against each other in the Seoul mayoral race.
Former Prime Minister Chung’s eloquent speaking style lowered his credibility.
Chung Dong-young, the candidate of the United New Democratic Party, clearly the best speaker of all the presidential candidates, probably feels the same painful paradox today.
No one is luckier than the Grand National Party’s candidate, Lee Myung-bak.
As an assemblyman, he left no record of impressive achievement in the legislature. But the projects he pursued as the mayor of Seoul, such as the Cheonggye Stream restoration project and the introduction of bus-only lanes in downtown Seoul, were a huge success.
He was also favored by luck in the course of the Grand National Party’s primary election.
Whenever he faced a crisis, some kind of big incident broke out, taking the people’s attention away.
In early July, when he came under scrutiny for making false residential registrations and for being involved in the BBK scandal, the Shin Jeong-ah scandal on fake academic credentials broke out.
At the end of July, when his approval rating started to fall due to rumors that real estate property in Dogok-dong, worth billions of won, belonged to him, the Afghanistan hostage incident broke out.
In addition, the plan for a second South-North Korean summit meeting was announced at the beginning of August.
Since even the rival party was helping him, there was no reason for Lee not to win the primary election. That is how he became the Grand National’s official presidential candidate.
His good fortune continued even after he became the Grand National Party’s candidate.
For a long stretch of time, he was the sole player on the stage for the presidential race because the governing party’s candidate, who was expected to attack and challenge him, was undecided.
That was probably frustrating and shocking for Lee Hoi-chang, who thought he lost unfairly due to unwarranted attacks on his son’s exemption from active military duty during the 1997 and 2002 presidential elections.
Now he must feel so even more, because it seems likely that Lee Myung-bak, a man who seems to have worse morals than him, is almost certain to become president.
However, in some respects, even the campaign of independent candidate Lee Hoi-chang does not appear to have a disheartening effect on Lee Myung-bak.
Although his approval rating, which was in the 50 percent range, fell to the 40 percent range, the conservative candidates continue to lead in the presidential race down the home stretch.
As the combined approval rating of Lee Myung-bak and Lee Hoi-chang is above 60 percent, it appears that the most votes the progressives can get is less than 40 percent.
The consolidation of pro-governing party forces has failed to catch the attention of the voting public, due to the candidacy of Lee Hoi-chang.
Furthermore, as Lee Hoi-chang positioned himself on the far right side of the political spectrum, this automatically moved Lee Myung-bak to the middle of political conservatives.
This means that a target for ideological attack has disappeared for candidate Chung Dong-young, who has to win the votes of the politically moderate voters.
The candidacy of Lee Hoi-chang has changed an opportunity into a threat for candidate Chung.
Even the timing of the deportation of the key figure in the BBK scandal, Kim Gyeong-jun, is working instead to encourage Lee Myung-bak.
It is strange enough, but the news of Kim’s arrival in Seoul has the effect of diluting the public’s criticism on suspicions that Lee had tried to evade taxes by claiming his own children were employees of the building management company he owns.
Candidate Lee Myung-bak’s run of good fortune has still continued, for now.
However, there is no guarantee that it will continue for the 30 days remaining until the presidential election. The investigation on the BBK scandal has just begun.
The suspicions and disheartening factors aimed at Lee until now were overcome with good fortune, but they will come up again.
Even if he is elected president, suspicions will keep clinging to his leg as long as they go unresolved.
I just hope his good fortune will not become the misfortune of the people.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo