[Viewpoint]Listen patientlyThe new administration begins Monday and Lee Myung-bak must finally be breathing easier. The National Government Organization Act is settled after a long dispute with liberal politicians and the independent counsel finally cleared Lee of corruption charges.
Of course, people are expecting a great many things from the new president; we are placing our hope for the future in him.
People have many different opinions about the virtues needed by a leader. Personally, I think the most important one is the ability to listen closely to others. Attentive listening is not an easy thing, and a leader must make considerable effort and be patient to really hear what others say.
Let me tell you an old story. Once upon a time, a scholar passed a civil exam and was sent to work as a governor. Before starting out for his new position, he went to a visit the shrine of his ancestors in his hometown and also to say farewell to his old mother.
When he asked his mother for advice, she told him that he should repeat the word “patience” three times to himself before doing anything. He promised to bear the advice in mind and left for his new job.
Just as he was leaving the village, a servant came running toward him with a message that his mother wished to see him again. He returned with curiosity, but his mother only told him again that he should repeat “patience” three times.
While he was somewhat irritated, he promised to do as she wished and left. This time, he was quite far from home and was resting. Again, the servant appeared and said his mother wished to see him. He hurried home, thinking there must be some emergency. However, his mother simply made the same request, asking him to repeat “patience” three times.
Now the scholar was angry and told his mother that he was not a child and did not need another reminder. Then the old and wise mother said, “Now you see, how difficult it is to be patient three times.” The scholar was stopped cold and finally understood what his mother had been saying. He went on to become a wise ruler by keeping his mother’s advice in mind.
You must be sincere when listening to others, and you have to be patient more than anything. You may become irritated after hearing the same thing over and over, no matter how sweet it is. And when it comes to bitter remarks, you often cannot bear to hear the bad news again. However, you need to be patient and listen closely. Only after you have listened can you decide what is right and what is wrong.
This is where President Roh Moo-hyun failed. He might have built an impregnable castle of ideology for himself, but to the eyes of his people, he seemed imprisoned in the fortress. Media is an important means of communication, whose distinct channels deliver a great many different opinions. However, instead of paying attention to the diversity present in the media, Roh chose to listen only to that which corresponded to his beliefs. He was not pleased with the conservative and the mainstream media, so he relied only on the progressive press. He tried to use television and the Internet to his advantage. When nothing was working, he abolished the press room system and set off a firestorm of controversy. He then turned to writing on the Internet.
Throughout his battles with the press, he seemed to be growing inward, like a star imploding.
When you refuse to listen, communication is impossible. Even Roh’s supporters regret this lack of communication. He was morally and ethically so proud that he was not willing to listen to others. This propensity appeared in the early days of his administration and grew over his term. In the end it resulted in his political destruction.
The worse things are, the more important communication becomes. The biggest challenge for the new administration is economic revival, and the circumstances are not ideal. There are various obstacles at home and abroad, and issues such as the free trade agreement with the United States and annual labor struggles here that need to be overcome through social consensus.
At this juncture, the new president will need to listen and be patient. Even if he cannot promise to fulfill all requests, people will be comforted if they are heard. Many people were concerned as they watched the course of negotiations for the National Government Organization Act. It might have seemed arrogant and unyielding when he announced the cabinet lineup unilaterally. It would have been better if he was more patient. Of course, the United Democratic Party was also responsible.
However, those in power must listen and be patient. Only then will the leader earn the power he has been given.
Lee Myung-bak, I hope you become a president who listens attentively and patiently and accomplishes his goals through communication with the people.
*The writer is the chief of the editorial pages of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Park Tae-wook