[Viewpoint] Don’t irritate the judgeEvery politician is now standing in front of a judge. This judge is the public. Pollsters are busy reading the public sentiment in 100 constituencies. However, I am more afraid of the silence, which cannot be translated. Amid this chaos, what does the silent public think? To me, the judge is reticent yet decisive.
In January 1988, President-elect Roh Tae-woo launched the Committee for Democracy and Reconciliation with 55 respected members of society. The purpose was to solidify his power base by resolving issues such as regional antagonisms and the aftermath of the Gwangju crisis.
Former Supreme Court Justice Lee Hoi-chang was one of those 55 members. He was known to be as straight as bamboo. The committee listened to testimony from the victims of the Gwangju military attack on citizens and proposed a remedy.
In April of that year, the 13th general elections were held. Roh Tae-woo’s Democratic Justice Party was optimistic it would win a majority of the seats, counting on the committee and the breakup of groups led by Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung into factions. The party leaders studied the poll results and expected to win 116 of the 224 seats in the National Assembly. However, two or three days before the election, a party official in charge of campaign planning cautiously shared his thoughts.
“Mr. Kim, things are getting strange. According to our research, the opposition candidates will outnumber the ruling party,” he said.
I could not believe his words because the opposition parties were so divided. I returned to my office and made a report.
In the elections, the opposition pounded the ruling Democratic Justice Party. The public does not easily reveal its heart.
The public detests betrayal and arrogance. The Democratic Justice Party found the intense opposition annoying and difficult. Kim Young-sam became convinced he had little chance of being elected president five years later with the third Unification Democratic Party. Kim Jong-pil of the New Democratic Republican Party longed for his days in the ruling party.
So in January 1990, the three parties merged. The voters selected a big opposition party and a small ruling party, yet the three political parties ignored the will of the voters and joined together. The North Gyeongsang, South Gyeongsang and Chung-cheong provinces were united, pushing Kim Dae-jung’s Honam base into a corner.
The 14th general election took place in March 1992. The giant ruling Democratic Liberal Party was highly confident it would win in a landslide. Kim Young-sam, a member of the party’s supreme council, bombastically said he would oversee the general elections. Nevertheless, the outcome was a crushing defeat. As the ballot boxes were opened that night, the lawmakers and secretaries in Kim Young-sam’s camp told me the public sentiment was so unexpected. Kim Young-sam barely saved himself by promoting an early party primary. The results must have been most surprising to him. However, the merger of the three parties betrayed the voters and the Democratic Liberal Party was arrogant.
The judge also despises incompetence and insincerity. In the April 2004 general elections, President Roh Moo-hyun narrowly escaped impeachment. The ruling party narrowly outnumbered the opposition, but that did not last even a year. Then came the local government elections in May 2006. Since the 1985 national elections, which brought about democratization, the public had never before exploded so fearfully.
The opposition Grand National Party captured the mayoral, gubernatorial and provincial assembly seats around the country, except in the Honam region. Professor Lee Yeong-hui, the anti-authoritarian critic from the 1970s, was a mentor to President Roh. After the election, he shared his lamentations on a train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. “The government officials are frivolous in their words and deeds, even though I asked the Uri Party lawmakers to read the Chinese classics,” he said. Even the president’s master shared the public’s contempt of frivolity.
Who will the public judge on April 9? One side is intoxicated by victory, with a margin of 5.31 million votes, in the presidential election. It has made careless ministerial appointments, retaliated against the people who accepted his party’s primary results and helped the president’s campaign, alienated innocent party members and struggled for power as their approval rating dropped. The other side criticized a month of mistakes by the others and forgot about their own five years of misgovernment, imprudently nominated candidates through strange telephone opinion polls, divided the country with misleading slogans, and is inexperienced and crude.
In history, general elections have been a romance between history and public sentiment. While the politicians tumbled in the mud of betrayal, arrogance, incompetence and insincerity, history and the public have been fair and square. And we, the voters, will express our thoughts.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin