Dawn of a new era?New President Lee Myung-bak drew an ideal vision for Koreans in his inauguration speech.
He set the bar high and spoke of many aspirations: peace, a developed economy, good relations between labor and management, an integrated society, small government and a large marketplace, business encouragement, motivated farmers and fishermen, confident women, better public education, stable home prices, a better life for North Korean people and pragmatic politics to better livelihoods. The president said the modern history of Korea that includes the foundation of the country, industrialization and democratization was neither a miracle nor a myth ― it is the result of Koreans’ blood, sweat and tears.
In this 60th anniversary year of the country’s foundation, Lee became president. He declared 2008 as the first year of advancement of the country. It is the first time for a president to announce the first year of a certain era. In 1961, former President Park Chung Hee did not announce that year as the start of a new era when he staged a military coup. In 1963, when he was elected president, he did not proclaim it the first year of industrialization. In 1987, former President Roh Tae-woo was elected president by a direct vote, but he did not declare it the first year of democratization when he was sworn in.
It is up to historians and the passage of time to determine eras.
If President Lee carries out his duties faithfully for five years, historians might mark this year as the first year of advancement. It would have been better for Lee, however, to urge people to once again shed blood, sweat and tears for advancement.
Former presidents have not kept promises made in inauguration speeches.
In 1993, former President Kim Young-sam said his new Korea would become a society where justice flows like a river. But the river of justice was blocked by his aides and his son and the country faced a financial crisis.
In 1998, former President Kim Dae-jung declared the government of the people. But conflicts between people from the eastern region and the western part worsened.
In 2003, former President Roh Moo-hyun announced realization of the citizens’ sovereignty. But his administration turned out to be composed of former student activists and supporters who shared the same ideology.
Now we have a new start. Let us hope that President Lee’s “first year of advancement” does not betray the people.