[Viewpoin]Survival of the weakestThe Lee Myung-bak administration has become the weakest government in history. It could have been the strongest, but after only three months in office, it has lost everything. It has run out of dignity, authority and power. The president’s name has become a subject of ridicule at demonstrations, and the government’s authority is not acknowledged. The protesters do not fear the power of the police. The National Assembly has not convened a session. How can the administration lead the nation for the remaining four years and nine months? What prescription will work? An illness can only be treated when the patient is aware that he is sick. The administration can get well when it admits that it has grown weak.
There is not much a weak government can do. It is a luxury to say it will revive the economy and pursue reforms. The citizens are now asking for the most basic function of a government ? the maintenance of social order.
The citizens entrust the government with upholding the law. The biggest weapon of any government is the law; by enforcing it, an administration can display its power. As such, the Lee administration’s last resort is the law. However, the government has grown so feeble that it cannot even afford to enforce the law. The Lee administration has no choice but to start from scratch in trying to build up its power.
In order to be in a position to enforce the law, those in power must first obey it. Only then will they be justified in ordering others to do so. However, Lee Myung-bak’s government attempted to transcend the law by appointing new heads to government agencies regardless of their mandated terms in office. The government needs to guarantee and respect the tenure in office of heads of government agencies. When it sets an example first, even a weak government can have the justification and power to execute the law.
The only allies left on the side of the isolated president are the civil servants. According to the law, the civil servants are supposed to follow the president’s orders. But from his early days in office, the president openly attacked civil servants. Of course, some were hindering national development with their lack of discipline. But civil servants are the ones who have been working for the public interest. Most of them are working with a sense of national mission. When the president does not recognize their contribution, the civil servants lose spirit.
In fact, the president is responsible for how helpless the police are in dealing with the demonstrations. Lee personally visited a police station that failed to catch a suspect, and reprimanded the police for hitting a protester with a shield. Now, the police are reluctant to act. The president has never entrusted the police chiefs with authority or given clear orders and encouragement about dealing with the demonstrations. In the last decade, the government’s public security apparatus has collapsed.
Public safety is the basis of all national affairs. The president should encourage civil servants in the public security sector. As the head of state, the president should value the civil servants and try to win their trust.
A weak leader needs to find as many allies as possible, but instead of bringing people together, the Lee Myung-bak administration has been busy excluding people both within his own party and the Blue House. The president and his cronies greedily hoped to monopolize power. Now, the closest aides to the president are openly attacking one another.
But now that the administration is so feeble, it can only survive through coexistence. Whether it is to Park Geun-hye or Lee Hoi-chang, President Lee should reach out for help. He needs to join hands with the Democrats as well. Even if they don’t share the president’s ideas, they can be partners. After all, we all live in the same country.
Democracy is a philosophy of coexistence, tolerance and diversity. When you are weak, you can only become strong by being faithful to democratic principles.
The weak government needs to change its philosophy in keeping with its lack of power. So far, it has operated based on a winner’s philosophy. The president has been successful all his life, so he was self-righteous and arrogant. However, it is time to acknowledge defeat. It is ironic that he has been defeated just as he rose to the highest position in the nation. A person can become modest when he knows failure. Only then can he place himself in other people’s shoes.
He should also change his philosophy of pragmatism. The utilitarian president wanted to respond flexibly based on each situation, but that caused the chaos we are experiencing today. Open-mindedness should not turn into opportunism. Everyone would turn their back on an opportunist. The weak can survive only by abiding by principles. In any situation, a president is responsible for protecting the nation from chaos. President Lee has to at least live up to this duty. Then, the public will return to him, and power will come.
*The writer is the vice publisher and chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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