[Viewpoint]From the heartNovelist Park Beom-sin at a party recently talked about the transformation that led him to put down his pen in the 1990s.
I always wanted to be a little more famous, a little more loved and have a little more vested interest, and I kept writing and writing, he said. One day, I found writing a story very painful and I ran out of imagination. I could not write a single page. Before I knew it, I was already filled with poison. After about three years in retirement in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, I was detoxified and could appreciate trees and birds and feel the grace of nature. My well was again filled with water, and I thought I could write novels again with the overflowing water.
Lately, bashing Lee Myung-bak has become a favorite pastime in the nation. Those who voted for him in the presidential election are especially enjoying it. At first, they were confused and frustrated that things were going the wrong way. In the end, they joined the wave of attacks. Lee s approval rating has fallen to some 20 percent. What happened to him?
Some say the leftists began an all-out offensive using the opportunity presented by American beef imports. His personnel appointments might be to blame, or the president himself might be contributing to the problem. Maybe, he is facing a wall after less than 100 days in office because he has been poisoned as Park Beom-sin was. Everyone suffers from his own poison, and I think the president has taken CEO poison. The citizens put their hopes in Lee because he was a successful CEO. They hoped that he would manage the nation successfully. Ironically, the qualities and virtues that made him a great CEO are his weaknesses as a president.
Since the inauguration, he has acted like a CEO. It was as if his cabinet ministers and civil servants were company employees. Even if a task is challenging, you shouldn t be discouraged and work without confidence, said the president. He also said that he slept only two hours during his visit to the United States. When the citizens heard such stories, we should have been impressed by how hardworking the president is. However, we find the president complacent. So, you think you are the only one working hard?
Sometimes, people identify more with a worried face than with a glowing, confident one. People are more attracted to insightful eyes that look beyond the surface and penetrate deep inside and troubled eyes that share the sufferings of other people.
CEOs are goal-oriented. How they attain them is less significant. Lee found such qualities useful while serving as the mayor of Seoul. The Cheonggye Stream project and exclusive bus lane system were business-style projects.
However, once he became president, such a goal-oriented attitude became poisonous. Everyone agrees that Korea needs a free trade agreement with the United States. However, we should not abandon negotiations on beef imports for the goal of an FTA. When the president said, Leading livestock farmers will have no problem after we open the beef market, the farmers who fall behind must have felt heartbroken.
A CEO can succeed by winning, but the president has to take care of the losers as well. A nation is a community. The Republic of Korea is a democratic republic, and here, the republic means that Korea is not a country of only smart and wealthy people but a country where people of every stripe live together.
The president must have made decisions on personnel appointments from the perspective of a CEO. He might have thought that he had the freedom to choose the lineup of those working with him. Coincidentally, they were all wealthy.
Being rich is hardly a sin. However, citizens came to have doubts about how the professors and salaried workers could accumulate such fortunes. They had been involved in illegal real estate speculation and eagerly pursued personal interests, so can they really make the public interest their top priority?
They were once intoxicated by money, and we are afraid they will spread the poison of power as well. They are smart people, but they also upset the citizens. They also failed to demonstrate competence as we have seen in the handling of the fuss over American beef. If they were concerned about the public interest, they should have considered the people who are uneasy because of hygiene issues.
The president said that he would humble himself to serve the citizens. If he is so willing to serve the citizens, he should take care of those around him as well. It might be easy to conceptually serve the citizens, but it is harder to care about the people you are working with. You might love mankind, but it is still challenging to love your neighbor. The citizens want to hear a speech that moves their hearts, not catches their ears. Hearts can be moved only by sincerity. When Lee frees himself from the toxins of a CEO mentality, he can project sincerity. Hearts will return to him when the president overflows with sincerity.
*The writer is the vice publisher and chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Lee Min-a Staff Reporter