[Viewpoint] Should Korea have a ‘beer summit?’The recent “beer summit” at the White House was something that could happen only as it did in the United States. Racism still exists around the world, but outside of Africa, the United States is the only country with a black president. But that’s no reason the spirit of the summit can’t be transported to, of all places, Korea.
There was something rather unique about the American occasion. There aren’t many countries in the world where police can complain that their president has interfered in their personal affairs.
As you probably know, the white policeman in the matter, James Crowley, belongs to the Cambridge police in Massachusetts. The arrested black man was none other than Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates. And we all know who Barack Obama is. Since Obama and Gates are black, Vice President Joe Biden joined the crew, perhaps to add racial balance.
The sudsy get-together of the four men was right out of Hollywood. Each chose different brews. The president selected Bud Light, long associated with America. The Harvard professor drank Samuel Adams, a beer produced in Boston, near his university. He said he always liked the beer, but, let’s face it, his choice certainly promoted his neighborhood.
The policeman chose the American beer Blue Moon. It’s unfiltered and orange-amber in color. One might ask: Did he want to drink a strong beer to show power in front of the president?
The vice-president’s choice was non-alcoholic Buckler from the Netherlands. He perhaps wanted to make it more comfortable for guests at the White House to choose import beers; there’s also the fact that he doesn’t drink.
On the surface, it was a casual meeting over beer. But below the surface, other themes played out.
The first one was the president’s apology. The president admitted that it was his mistake to bring up the issue of race the way he did in the early days of the dispute. Without his apology, the beer summit could not have been possible.
Another theme was the American society’s perception that one should be more careful about racial issues. Though it is unknown whether Gates or Crowley gave apologies to one another at the beer meeting, The New York Times reported that there were no apologies given.
However, the four people who met over beer at the White House and the people who watched them must have been moved. After the incident, we can expect Americans to become more mature about racial issues.
Now let’s play a game. If four people were to get together over beers at the Blue House in Korea, who should be invited?
That’s a problem. Since there are so many conflicts in Korea, a single beer tipping occasion would never be enough. Guests would overflow and have to be packed in by buses.
Despite this logistical problem, there are some obvious choices for the first beer summit. President Lee Myung-bak, former Grand National Party Chairman Park Geun-hye and the former National Assemblyman Lee Jae-oh would surely make the list. To make it into a two-on-two meeting, like the Americans, Hong Sa-duk, the leader of the Pro-Park Geun-hye camp, could be enlisted. Though it would be up to individuals to choose which beer to drink, it would be good to have both Korean and imported beers around.
Two things must be guaranteed for such a dramatic meeting to take place.
First, like Obama, the president should apologize. He should admit that he did not keep his promise to treat Park as his partner in running state affairs. If the apology is delivered beforehand, a beer summit will be possible. The other thing that needs to happen is a promise to have fair competition. Park enjoys high approval ratings and is doing her best to win the next presidential election.
Lee Jae-oh is the one who contributed most to the birth of the Lee Myung-bak administration. While watching his “big brother” get elected, he also has ambition to become a main figure in a new administration. The two forces will confront each other at every chance and the conflict will have strong repercussions during the entire administration.
There are other beer summit contenders, such as Chung Mong-joon, a leading member of the GNP, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon and Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo. But the competition in the ruling party basically comes down to Park Geun-hye versus Lee Jae-oh.
As beer quenches thirst, fairness resolves conflict. Just as Obama must be the president for both whites and blacks, Lee must be the president both for pro-Lee forces and the pro-Park camp. From the chairmanship of the party to competition to become the president, the president must promise to guarantee fair competition between various forces. Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Tae-woo took the same approach.
Where could the beer feast begin? That’s the easy part. The Sangchunjae pavilion in the Blue House would be the best location, just as the Rose Garden was at the White House.
*The writer is an editorial writer and senior political news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin