[Overseas view]Scene and heardOn July 8, 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton, who was in his second term in office, visited a job training center in Los Angeles. He stood next to a young black trainee.
Then he said to the media and a crowd gathered around him, “We need to make more jobs for young people. However, what use are the jobs if the young people of America do not have the chance to get educated to get better jobs?”
The crowd broke into applause, and the scene, including the black trainee who was touched by the presidential address, was broadcast live via the television networks. Photos of it decorated the front pages of newspapers nationwide.
Clinton then moved to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry there for a meeting with private businesspeople.
A business representative later stood in front of the microphone, next to the president. He said, “We have decided to establish an information technology training center by investing $8 million to give young people the chance to get high-tech jobs.”
In the midst of the applause, Clinton grabbed the representative’s hands, and said, “Neither the government nor the industry alone can make jobs for young people. Together, we can build a United States where nobody lags behind.”
The crowd shouted its approval. The people’s hearts were touched by the wave of emotion.
The event climaxed a four-day long presidential journey around the Untied States. It was Clinton’s “poverty tour” across the North American continent, starting from a mining village in Kentucky, via farms in the Mississippi Delta and slums in St. Louis, to the American Indian reservations in South Dakota. Every place he visited, Clinton held the hands of local people living in poverty and delivered emotional speeches. He did not forget, of course, to announce resolutions to local problems.
It was a well-plotted drama. Actually, it was more of a show featuring the president and local residents mingling harmoniously. Clinton and his advisers scouted around for stages and wrote the script months ahead of time. They listened to the opinions of local residents beforehand to add a touch of reality to the show. They established detailed plans, considering the reaction of the media and the people. The show was successful. It called the people’s attention to poverty-stricken areas and made the U.S. Congress agree on a resolution against poverty.
Needless to say, Clinton’s approval rating rose, too.
President Lee Myung-bak visited a discount store in Yangjae-dong and an old-fashioned market in Jayang-dong last weekend. The purpose was to find out the prices of the commodities regular people pay for their daily shopping needs.
On the spot, he ordered his aides to find solutions to local problems. At a discount store, he spoke about improvements in the structure of the distribution of agricultural and fish products.
At an old-fashioned market, he said, “We should make a unique effort to turn [markets] into tourism spots by adding a touch of unique cultural traditions to them.” He also said the name should be changed to a traditional market instead of an old-fashioned market.
The cabinet ministers are busy, too. They are running around here and there to listen to reports related to their duties directly on the spot.
Kang Man-soo, the minister of Strategic Planning and Finance, visited a traditional market with Prime Minister Han Seung-soo, then visited the construction site of Pangyo new town.
After hearing concerns about the rising cost of steel reinforcements, he gave an order: “Track down hoarders by examining the manufacturing and distribution process of steel reinforcements and impose a tax on unwarranted profits.” Because of that order, the ministries of Strategic Planning and Finance, Knowledge-based Economy, Homeland and Maritime Affairs and the National Tax Service hurriedly announced they would impose strong regulations against the hoarding of steel reinforcements.
It has been a long time since we last saw the president and ministers busily going around visiting places here and there. Former President Roh Moo-hyun did not visit localities. His reason was that he “did not want to make a public show.” Not only did he not visit marketplaces or department stores, but he did not even go to the scene of the fire at Namdaemun, which happened at the end of his term. He visited the scene of the oil spill in Taean several days after the incident, only out of obligation.
This is why President Lee’s emphasis on visiting locations draws the people’s attention. They are satisfied to see the new administration working so hard. This appears to be why such shows are needed.
However, something is lacking. Lee is not touching people’s hearts.
It is hard to get a reaction from the audience with on-the-spot improvisations without a prepared script.
There may be a fresh feeling from being at the scene, but it doesn’t bring about any tangible accomplishments.
Running around busily on-stage does not make it a show. Is there no way to see a show that is both practical and charged with emotion?
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jong-soo