[LETTERS to the editor]Level playing fields

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[LETTERS to the editor]Level playing fields

Like many South Korean citizens, I shared the joy of watching Park Tae-hwan win the gold medal in the men’s 400-meter freestyle at the Olympics yesterday.

It was a touching moment of human victory reached by personal gifts as well as hard discipline.

We all know that success is the result of a combination of efforts - that is, his inborn talent, a strong will to be first in the swimming field, and hard work guided by scientific coaching.

With a bright smile on his face with a shining gold medal around his neck, he was a glorious picture of victory in an environment guaranteed by transparency and objective management of the Olympics that enables everybody to become a winner if he is truly qualified.

Park’s success, however, reminded me of the dark side of the Korean political process.

Different from sports, the political process is not always fair in its evaluation system such as in determining and deciding certain contests.

Many competitions or games are played on an unequal basis from the beginning.

The political candidate nomination process and elections could be good examples.

It is commonly believed that someone forms his own political philosophy out of accumulated hard learning and direct experience; thus, politicians’ watchwords and election pledges initially influence electorates’ decisions on whom to vote for.

But from the initial process of selecting nominees who would represent a political party, personal connections to the core party hierarchy and financial power behind the scenes play more important roles in finalizing choices of candidates for electoral districts.

This is an abnormal political process; a candidate for any election must be judged by the quality of the candidate and policy vision that he has endeavored to develop throughout his life - not by his financial capacity or his relationship with powerful men in a party.

Politics should acquire the sporting spirit - an objective evaluation system that is transparent and clear in its rule-setting, actual application and implementation in reality.

For Park Tae-hwan, the swimming pool is a fair, transparent playing field in which to compete against others; in it, there are no violations of fair management.

If politics is practiced on similar grounds, free of violations of rules agreed upon by various parties - without prejudice, arrogance, greed, undemocratic oppression - then a truly qualified winner who would serve the people in the spirit of true service and dedication to society, can be expected to emerge to be elected.

Such a leader will work for the nation, not for himself; for the interests of the community, not for his political faction; and for the future development of the nation, not for short-sighted goals of a political party.

If our gold medalists in the Olympics - Park Tae-hwan in swimming, and Choi Min-ho in judo [to mention only a couple] - are to be reproduced in the political field, we also need more transparent and objective processes for selecting candidates for nomination and political recruitment.

We need a fair democratic system in which we could reap as much as we sow.

Tae-Woo Park

Visiting professor, Department of Diplomacy, National ChengChi University, Taipei
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