[Viewpoint]Dare to liveA few years ago, I wrote a column in the Joongang Ilbo titled “Why Roh Moo-hyun cannot beat Park Chung Hee.” The Blue House’s reaction to the column was not just sensitive; it was harsh.
The newspaper column was featured even in the evening television news that day. The next morning, I received a phone call from Lee Myung-bak, then mayor of Seoul, who is now president. He wanted to meet me.
The two of us met for dinner and over the meal, he shared stories about Chung Ju-yung, the late founder and chairman of Hyundai. While Chung was not the most educated of men, the honorary chairman had endless solutions to problems.
No wonder he was nicknamed the “Man with Ten Thousand Solutions.”
So people thought that Lee Myung-bak must have at least 9,000 solutions to survive under Chairman Chung. However, Lee said, “If you’re working for a man with ten thousand solutions, you will have a hard time even if you know 9,999 solutions. I could hold my own under Chairman Chung because I had managed to stay one move ahead.”
During his life, Chung displayed an animal-like instinct to judge a situation, set a direction and make clear decisions. It was Lee’s role to execute decisions. And Lee was a man of action.
Time has passed, the Man of Ten Thousand Solutions has passed away, and the Man of One Solution is left alone. Of course, when he was serving as mayor of Seoul, his pursuit of one solution had a positive effect.
For instance, he successfully completed the Cheonggye Stream project despite criticism and opposition.
However, when Lee Myung-bak became president of Korea, the one-solution manner started to have a negative impact. His careless comments and actions often upset people. In fact, his personality probably contributed to the ongoing candlelight vigils and protests in Seoul.
If Chairman Chung were alive today, how would he react to the chaos today? He would have told President Lee in his characteristic accent, “Did you use your only solution, your one move?” He would have asked whether Lee had confronted the protesters who have been staging demos every night in Gwanghwamun. He would have asked whether Lee was prepared to suffer slings and arrows.
Chairman Chung Ju-yung sank a tanker to block off the water in the Seosan land reclamation project in the 1980s. However, when President Lee Myung-bak tried to stop demonstrators approaching the Blue House by building a wall with shipping containers, the blockade was ridiculed as the “Myungbak Fortress.” It came to symbolize the severed communication between the president and the people.
Regardless of the number, excessively violent protesters are clearly a problem. However, when downtown Seoul turns into a lawless neighborhood every night, there should be a better way than blocking the path to the Blue House and relying on the pathetic riot police.
After all, we are not living during the time of the 1960 April Revolution. Back then, the president was afraid that demonstrators would break into the Blue House.
Lee would be mad to think he could suppress the protesters with force as past military regimes have done.
Ultimately, the only solution to normalize life and stop the anarchy in the capital is for the president to be prepared to be hit by eggs and stones and come face-to-face with the protesters.
The demonstrators will never harm Lee. They would never tolerate such an assault. Only when President Lee bravely confronts the situation will he have the dignity and authority to carry through the rest of his four and a half years left in office.
The President should not just observe the candlelight from the mountain behind the Blue House and hum “Morning Dew” to himself. Instead, he should go to Gwanghwamun.
No president in the world can triumph over the people using force. If he looks at the statue of Admiral Lee Sun-sin, he would be reminded of a famous quote: “If you try to live, you will be dead. But if you dare to die, you will survive.”
*The writer is an editorial writer of the Joongang Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong