[Outlook]Where’s Roh?President Roh Moo-hyun never showed up as the Sungnye-mun burned. He did not appear on the scene of the country’s worst oil spill in Taean, South Chungcheong, for some time either.
The oil spill was a matter of primary concern, attracting more than 1 million volunteers nationwide. After biting criticism, Roh made a belated appearance in Taean, as if he were only doing his duty.
Roh warned in a press conference that he will veto President-elect Lee Myung-bak’s bill restructuring the government. He said, “The presidential tenure has not ended yet,” refering to his own authority.
He also appointed his beloved presidential secretary as a top presidential aide for his one or two remaining months in office, and he has been busy taking care of his entourage by exercising his right to implement personnel management to the last.
I never imagined Roh was a president who would exercise all his other rights to the end but pass by disasters with his face averted.
Some people may say that I am being too cruel to a president who is scheduled to leave the Blue House in a week. As a matter of fact, if those who commit wrongdoing step down voluntarily or die in office, it is customary in Korean society not to argue about whether what they did was wrong or right.
The Sungnyemun fire suspect was confirmed as the same arsonist who set part of a former royal palace, Changgyeong, on fire in central Seoul in April 2006. However, he was granted a suspended sentence due to his advanced age.
People seem to be giving Roh the same treatment after he failed to appear at the Sungnyemun fire. He has already become a forgotten president.
Many people were eager to see Sungnyemun after it burned down, and took the trouble to come to Seoul from rural areas.
So why doesn’t the incumbent president visit the site? Is it because he thought it would be a political show to go to the scene? Is he fully occupied with drawing protective measures for cultural properties? Is he afraid of being jeered and heckled by the people?
Many people point out that the ruling party’s miserable failure in the 17th presidential election was mainly due to common people’s hatred for Roh. The centrist United Democratic Party, which calls itself a “pan-ruling party,” has already drawn a line separating itself from Roh. They acted as if they were afraid the president would get along well with them.
The Blue House is distant from the people and entirely cut off from society. Therefore, the idea did not even occur to Roh that he should pay a visit to Sungnyemun after it burned.
There is another example that reflects the president’s miserable situation. In a few days, he is scheduled to leave the Blue House and go by KTX train to Bongha Village, his birthplace. However, when he asked some former and incumbent ministers and vice ministers to accompany him, there was just a handful of people who wanted to go. It was a single-digit number.
There was a former minister who heard this and decided to ride the train with Roh even though he didn’t want to. Even though they enjoyed great benefits from the incumbent government, they were so hardhearted that they avoided Roh’s last ceremony. However, Roh should also feel ashamed of himself.
There was a farewell meeting for the top presidential secretary, who left the Blue House in early February with the view of preparing for the general election in April.
During the meeting, he remarked, “It would not be beneficial to mention my name during the campaign in the run-up to the general election. So, you do not have to make our ties known to the public.” This showed the low state to which the president has sunk.
It is certain that he shed tears of blood.
Roh’s legacy is really gloomy. Two presidents ― former President Kim Young-sam, who faced severe criticism for causing the financial crisis in 1997, and Kim Dae-jung, who was a lame duck at the end of his tenure because of his sons ― also had miserable legacies.
However, Roh is the worst among them. How is this possible, even though he was not involved in corruption from a moral perspective? It is because he did not hesitate to make bitter remarks to people. He made light of the post of president and lost the country’s respect.
Let this be a good lesson to the president-elect. He should be aware that the president’s remarks carry authority.
Sungnyemun seemed to be under control at first but it finally collapsed. Be careful not to set fire to the people’s hearts.
The incoming government should not forget this lesson.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo