[Viewpoint]Reckless behaviorNapoleon Bonaparte was an impatient man. He did not even like to spend too much time eating. He would finish his meal in 20 minutes and give a deep sigh, “Oh, my energy is getting wasted!” There were too many places to conquer and he just did not have enough time. So his chefs had to be running with the plates of his food.
President-elect Lee Myung-bak is no less quick-tempered than Napoleon. One day, he called the presidential transition committee for an early morning meeting over breakfast. He said, “I have already had my breakfast, so take your time.”
The people at the meeting couldn’t swallow their sandwiches comfortably in front of the impatient president-elect. Lee’s hastiness also comes from his passion. He has so much to do, but he has only five years, so he needs to make haste. His impatience often makes the people who work for him short of breath.
The Blue House staff was finalized last week. The new hires are the unfortunate insiders who cannot even dream of having a private life while running around with their impetuous boss. In fact, they literally ran 15 laps on the track with the boss during a national administration workshop. Their performance will be evaluated every six months, so they should be prepared to leave the team if they fall behind.
Many people want to run for a seat in the National Assembly to avoid the trouble, but they are the ones Lee has asked to work for him. However, they are getting more ridicule than encouragement.
Some are talking about “Blue House University” because many of the secretaries have been professors.
I am more concerned about the composition of the Blue House staff than anything else. Their background is not what troubles me. The president-elect is so eager to work that he is the one picking out the staff members to work with him. He will drive them hard, so he should select people who are in tune with him.
With a career in academia, these former professors are very knowledgeable and will make great aides. However, I feel uneasy as I look at their academic specialties. Five of the seven senior secretaries have taught economics.
What the citizens expect of the president-elect is economic revival, but he seems to be overshooting.
The aides are the ones who have to make up for the shortcomings of their boss. They need to deliver multidimensional opinions from various perspectives.
In order to reach the best possible outcome, they should debate each other in roundtable brainstorming sessions.
The president himself received an honorary doctorate of economics from the National University of Mongolia and Mokpo National University. What will he discuss with the secretaries who have studied economics and earned Ph.D.s in the United States? What if the president gives a command and the secretaries simply follow the order?
That recklessness is both the strength and weakness of the president-elect. He wants to push for an organizational reshuffling of the government and come up with ideas to restore Namdaemun with donations from citizens at the same time.
He is eager to wrap things up quickly and see the outcome, so he doesn’t want to spend time compromising and listening to others. Wasting time is neither efficient nor economical. However, you cannot govern a country with just outcomes and efficiency. The poisonous plant of materialism feeds on the lack of reflection in people’s lives. Just as Adam Smith warned, emphasizing efficiency while neglecting virtue can be a great threat to society.
Korea’s ancestors took great care against excessive recklessness. Joseon-period philosopher Jeong Yak-yong wrote to his son, “I am glad to hear that you are raising chickens. Thoroughly read the agricultural field manuals and choose a good method. You should carefully distinguish the colors and use different methods to fatten up the chickens and improve reproduction. However, you would be a bad farmer if you only pursued your interests and neglected integrity, focused on farming yet neglected grace or quarreled with your neighbor all the time. Even if you are doing a mundane job, you should always set your mind to be graceful.”
Lee might need an aide who can give him such advice.
I really hope my concerns are rash and groundless. However, Lee needs to keep one thing in mind.
The French have mixed views on Napoleon. By no means was Napoleon a successful ruler.
*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hoon-beom
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