Goodbye RohWhen entering office five years ago, President Roh Moo-hyun said he wanted to be the first leader in the new era instead of the last leader of the old era. At the time, it seemed like the timing was right. Since the 1970s, Korean politics has accomplished four milestones: the election of a civilian president, a peaceful shift of power from the ruling party to the opposition, a shift of power between Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces and a shift of power between generations.
Former presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae Jung achieved the first three. President Roh completed the last.
But because of his distorted view of history, Roh missed a perfect opportunity. He was arrogant enough to despise the Constitution. His knowledge was poor, but his mouth was quick. Being controlled by former student activists, he had no authority.
He knew little about the world and North Korea, and he faced modern history and the media with limited experience. As time went by, his real character was revealed and the entire country was pushed into chaos. He will soon leave office, and we will soon leave him behind in history.
Roh was a man of dualism. He ran toward the light but left a shadow behind. He desperately wanted to become president but months after taking office, he started to complain about being there. He successfully transferred the U.S. military base in Yongsan, but left the statue of General MacArthur vulnerable to vandalism and did nothing when protesters attacked soldiers. He sent Korean troops to Iraq but said there was nothing wrong with being anti-American. He pushed through a free trade agreement with Washington, but let the chief of police who stopped protesting farmers resign.
He didn’t realize how serious his duplicity was. He served as a judge and lawyer, but as president, he violated the Constitution several times. He boasted that exports increased by double digits every year while he was in office, but he blames the financial crisis 10 years ago for reduced investment, decreased jobs and harder daily lives for common people during his presidency.
He did good things, too. Bribery in election campaigns has almost disappeared. The corrupt bonds between politicians and entrepreneurs have weakened significantly, and we are now expecting the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement to be ratified.
But bygones should be bygones. After retirement, Roh should give up his misdirected passion and step out of the political circle.