[Viewpoint]Trouble at homePresident Lee Myung-bak is a lucky man. He was a celebrated CEO while in the private sector, and he served as the mayor of Seoul. He has been so successful in his career that he even became the president of the Republic of Korea. And the first lady gives him 95 points as a husband and father. Many fathers of his generation do not get such evaluations.
Career success does not necessarily guarantee happiness. Instead, many socially successful men have unhappy families. Absorbed in career and work, many fathers neglected their families.
Today’s sexagenarians and septuagenarians were especially so, as they contributed to the economic foundation that made Korea what it is today. They only looked into the future and dashed forward, failing to pay attention to the problems in their families. It is no longer news that some couples decide to get divorced after a long marriage.
The president has excelled in his life, at home and at work, but state management has not come so easy to him. So, late in his life, success and happiness are going separate ways. The president personally pointed out that his most vulnerable spot is diplomacy. However, as soon as he came into office, he smoothly finished a tour of three powerful nations. By making a 21st-century strategic alliance with the United States, he immediately transcended the chill of the last five years.
He established a future-oriented, mature partnership with Japan and prepared the foundation for cooperation for the future instead of holding on to the past. China has elevated its foreign relations with Korea to a “strategic partnership,” but had been somewhat sulky about Seoul’s pro-U.S. tendency. However, President Lee made a visit to the earthquake disaster zone, showing a friendly gesture in hard times. No one knows how the situation might change in the future, but so far, I would say that President Lee gets a passing grade in diplomacy.
However, he is failing at home. The president said in his New Year’s address that he would open an era when citizens do not have to worry about the country so much. However, after only three months in office, he has made even middle school students feel anxious. His approval rating has dropped to 20 percent. The rating was based on the responses of adults only, but it would have been lower if it included high school and middle school students.
The candlelight vigils are growing day by day. Mothers are participating with their babies in strollers, and couples join the rallies as if they are on a date.
The president brought the trouble on himself after only paying attention to situations abroad. He is acting just like many fathers of his generation, who contributed to modernization and economic development but remained authoritarian patriarchs at home. Believing that his decisions are right, he thought he would just lead the family and did not need to give detailed explanations to its members. With the president acting so stubbornly, he did not even get a chance to use his signature skill of economic revival.
If he wishes to take care of his extended public family now, I recommend that he look into the lives of the citizens in their 20s and 30s, who are initiating the candlelight vigils. The fathers who have neglected their families should visit their children’s rooms first. They are the generation who do not work for food or money but do what they like. They create video files and share them freely on the Internet. They voluntarily forward and spread information without anyone asking for it. They rave at trivial stories and broadcast them to let more people enjoy them. I doubt many of them have read Mencius, but they are the generation practicing the words of Mencius, who said, “It is better to enjoy with others than enjoying by oneself. And it is better to enjoy with many than enjoying with a few.”
CEOs working with the young generation cannot dream of pushing their ideas unilaterally. No matter how smart and how driven a CEO might be, a unilateral approach will bring disastrous consequences.
Now that the president is willing to communicate, he should face this generation. If he wants to communicate with them, he should constantly talk, persuade and be persuaded. The young generation is used to the two-way communication of the Internet. The president needs to recover trust and induce voluntary participation. Then, he would elicit far greater energy from people than by giving orders. It is better to bring brains together than work by himself, and it is better to use the understanding of the many than moving with the mechanism of a few.
*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hoon-beom