Game of riskAt the beginning of World War II, most of Japan’s fighter pilots did not wear parachutes when they fought battles in the air. Parachutes were given to every pilot as a safety item. There were no shortages and pilots did not feel bad using them. They chose not to wear them. That was not a time, either, that Japanese pilots were carrying out kamikaze attacks, which did not require the use of parachutes. But still, they gave up their parachutes, the last resort for their life, during risky air battles. Why?
According to testimony by surviving pilots after the war, the reason the pilots did not wear parachutes was quite bizarre. The pilots said the links and cords of a parachute made it difficult for them to move their arms and legs quickly. The biggest risk in an air battle is to be shot by an enemy fighter. But if a pilot wears a parachute, it could slow his movement in the cockpit, increasing the risk of being shot. The reason for having a parachute is to protect the pilot’s life, but the pilot has to risk losing his life in battle because he has the parachute. Between the risk of being shot and the risk of giving up the safety net, Japanese pilots chose the latter.
There are many similar cases in which reducing one risk increases another. The subway is regarded as a safe form of transportation, but large-scale accidents break out at times. If subways run more slowly and at longer intervals to make them safer, there will be a smaller number of passengers.
The people who hurry to work then would have to choose another means of transportation than the subway. Still, other means of transportation have higher risks of accidents than the subway. The measure to reduce the risk of accidents on the subways will eventually increase the risk that former subway passengers will have accidents while traveling with the other forms of transportation. In such a situation, we need to choose which risk is more dangerous. The people who want new forces to take over in the administration are probably in a similar situation.
If they support Lee Myung-bak, they need to consider the risk he could be disqualified due to the BBK scandal. But if they support Lee Hoi-chang, who ran for the presidency as a safety net, the votes will be divided between him and Lee Myung-bak, only increasing the chance of their common rival being elected. It is difficult to make a choice among different but similar risks. To make a choice among risks gives rise to the risk of making a choice. This week while the investigation into the BBK scandal is going on, voters will probably have to face a difficult time, thinking which risk to choose.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Jong-soo [email@example.com]