[Viewpoint] Force Roh to face up to his guilt

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[Viewpoint] Force Roh to face up to his guilt

Former President Roh Moo-hyun is, in my opinion, a coward.

He shouted from the mountaintop that he would be at the forefront of eradicating violations of ethics and privilege in our society. But all his restless ambition during his tenure as president is gone, and he is now left pondering his slipping grasp of the law.

He said that he was “ashamed of himself” before the public but persisted in denying all knowledge of the bribery allegations to the very end before prosecutors.

Why does Roh fail to realize that his double-faced attitude is the kind of hypocrisy that leads the public to become heartily sick of him?

Meddlers might feel strangely interested to see him playing the truth game with prosecutors. But telling the truth will be the last opportunity for Roh to serve the people of this country as their former president.

I am left feeling dejected as there is little likelihood that he will satisfy our expectations.

Rather than making a full confession of his crime and shedding penitential tears as the former president who once assumed full responsibility for state affairs, it is truly pitiful that he is arguing the rights of suspects for the sake of argument as a former lawyer.

This writer insists that he should be indicted without physical detention because of the strange attitude he has displayed.

This is because he committed a serious crime, and he fails to recognize the significance of his wrongdoing.

In this regard, I believe it is necessary to place him under indictment without detention, so that he can realize - although belatedly - the seriousness of his unlawful actions, and pay a due penalty before the public.

The Bible tells a story of the brothers Cain and Abel. Cain was not a diligent farmer, unlike his honest, hard-working brother who dutifully cultivated the family’s land. One day, in a jealous rage, Cain killed his brother after God rejected his sacrifice but accepted Abel’s. Then God asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain replied arrogantly. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Furious, God’s punishment was merciless. “Abel’s blood cries out to the sky from the ground! You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

Why did God punish Cain who committed a murder by having him roam about the world?

Perhaps as Cain’s guilt was too huge to cry “Peccavi (I have sinned)!” in acknowledgment of his sin, receiving the penalty of death as punishment for the crime would have been an all-too-easy escape.

Roh’s attitude reminds me of Cain, who asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” while keeping a straight face.

Similarly, Roh hit back at prosecutors with an innocent expression, insisting, “Show me tangible evidence.”

Thus, we need here to ponder the meaning of Cain’s punishment.

To my mind, detaining former President Roh is not the preferable punishment. Not because we lack enough evidence of his alleged corruption, nor because we are paternalistic, insisting, “I condemn the sin but not the sinner.”

Instead, we insist that he should be indicted without detention, not because former presidents should be treated with a level of respect above the law, but because the seriousness of his crime during his tenure as president is such that he cannot be so easily forgiven by the public.

There is a strong possibility that, if we detain Roh at this time, he might think that he has been purged of his sin.

Wouldn’t this mean that he could later resume his political activities?

Or what would happen if he could insist that his “dead power” is suffering persecution by the “rising power” and continue to undermine the spirit of the law?

If this happens, Korea will be in a predicament. Definitely, his corruption and hypocrisy is a crime of the kind that can be forgiven if he is sentenced to do time in jail.

If he violated the expectations and trust of those who elected him as a president who would engage in clean politics, his sins can only be forgiven if he receives the same punishment as Cain who wandered the earth for the rest of his life.

What is absolutely needed for former President Roh is not his feeling of shame that he had endured a difficult time, but his heartfelt atonement. He should continue to feel a sense of guilt, realizing that he committed a crime of considerable seriousness.

Roh, who persists in making an abject apology and quibbling from beginning to end, should receive the same punishment as Cain was meted.

*The writer is a professor of ethics education at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Park Hyo-chong
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