[Viewpoint]End the name gameA new administration will be born tomorrow. The three previous presidents called their administration the “civilian government,” the “people’s government” and the “participatory government.” What fancy word will the next president use to describe his administration?
Grand National Party presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak has said, “My administration will be a practical, or pragmatic, government.”
The United New Democratic Party’s Chung Dong-young chose “government of integration.” However, it is about time we stop using those names. The next president should proudly use his own name. That is the global standard.
An administration is finite, but history is infinite. If a few presidents use up all of the good words to describe their five-year terms, no modifiers will be left for future presidents. It all began with President Kim Young-sam in 1993. He named his administration the “civilian government.” Of course, he chose the word “civilian” to distinguish himself from the preceding military regimes. Does that mean the administrations that came afterward were not civilian?
President Kim Dae-jung called his administration the “people’s government.” Does that mean the governments under Presidents Kim Young-sam and Roh Moo-hyun belonged not to the people, but to others?
President Roh Moo-hyun’s administration is known as the “participatory government.” So, does that mean that the Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung governments didn’t let the citizens participate? After all, these modifiers are mere wordplay.
President Kim Young-sam was obsessed with his civilian background, partly because he had a complex about his legitimacy. During the 1987 presidential election campaign, he proclaimed an end to military rule in the country. However, because of his break from Kim Dae-jung, he ended up extending what he had called the military rule. In 1990, he merged his party with the ruling circle of the Fifth Republic without getting approval from the citizens. He must have felt uncomfortable about how the critics would judge his legitimacy. So when he came into office in 1993, he declared he would call his administration the “civilian” one.
The Roh Tae-woo Administration was also born through a direct election. Therefore, calling the Kim Young-sam Administration the first civilian government in Korea is questionable. Even if it were the first civilian government, that should be left for the history books to decide. That is not something he himself can claim.
President Kim Dae-jung wanted to move beyond the term “civilian.” For the first time in history, he had accomplished a change in the ruling party. He was also the first president to come from the Honam region. Therefore, Kim wanted something more grand than “civilian,” and opted for the “people’s government.” It is indeed an arrogant title. The title should not exclusively belong to his administration, and all administrations elected by the citizens deserve to be called the “people’s government.”
Upon coming into office, he declared it was “the second founding of the nation.” He also created a showy organization to promote the idea. Why did the nation need a second founding? Did he mean the country had fallen? What about the past administrations which accomplished industrialization, economic growth and democratization? His slogans were so farfetched the citizens could hardly remember them.
Since his predecessors used the terms “civilian” and “people,” President Roh Moo-hyun must have struggled to come up with a name.
That’s why he called his administration the “participatory government,” hoping to close the distance between the citizens and an authoritarian government.
Just as he had promised, different interest groups joined in power through the open doors. Various government organizations that included citizens were created, and they re-evaluated the past. Those who shared the president’s code were warmly welcomed, but the government shunned the critical media. The administration was about their participation, not the participation of all of the citizens.
Presidential candidate Chung Dong-young might have thought he would “integrate” all the citizens who were divided during the past five years under President Roh. However, it is just another form and an imitation of the civilian, people’s and participatory governments.
Citizens of developed countries remember both the proud moments and the shameful parts of history that mere associated with the names of the president or the prime minister.
Some Americans say the United States became greater during the Reagan Administration, from 1980 to 1988. If Reagan had called his administration the “government of revival,” Americans would have laughed.
The British remember winning the Falklands War during the Thatcher government, from 1979 to 1990. However, Thatcher would never call her administration the victorious one. If a president uses all his character and energy to lead a nation for five years, putting his name on the government is honorable. Even if he doesn’t have the fancy descriptions, such as “civilian,” “people’s” “participatory” and “integration,” the citizens will remember him as long as he is a competent chief executive. We will proudly remember his name. From now on, citizens should call past administrations by the names of the presidents, Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. That way, their successes and failures will be remembered more vividly.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin