[Viewpoint] Where is our heroic leadership?

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[Viewpoint] Where is our heroic leadership?

The happiest moment for any leader comes when all of his or her labor and trials culminate in the achievement of the unthinkable.

Anglo-Irish explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton had just such a moment.

Even nearly a century since his accomplishment, his heroic leadership comprised of conviction, passion and determination remains alive as a role model.

Shackleton’s early expeditions had been unfruitful, eclipsed by those of his more successful contemporaries.

In 1909, he came as close as anyone to reaching the South Pole - traveling to a point at 88 degrees 23 minutes south latitude, only 180 kilometers (111.8 miles) from the pole. But the actual conquest of the South Pole was to be attained by Roald Amundsen two years later.

After his commander, Captain Robert Scott, died, Shackleton later tried to travel from ocean to ocean, crossing the pole along the way.

But his ship hit an ice pack and was slowly crushed. He and his crew floated on icebergs, until those began to disintegrate. They then drifted on lifeboats until they landed on the deserted Elephant Island.

Shackleton then resolved to attempt a boat journey to the South Georgia island whaling stations, nearly 1,500 kilometers away, to seek help. After 16 days on the sea, battling ice storms and hurricanes, the boat reached shore, but at an uninhabited part of the island.

Shackleton and two of his crew members crossed to the opposite shore on foot. They traveled over the snowy terrain for 36 hours to reach a whaling station.

At the end, all 22 of his crewmen were rescued. The expedition did not succeed, but Shackleton staunchly led his men through 500 days of a life-and-death battle against unfathomable perils. It was victory enough that he returned them home unhurt.

Shackleton joined the ranks of polar heroes and great British adventurers despite having failed conquests because of his compassionate and wise leadership against all odds.

An experienced contemporary explorer later wrote, “For a joint scientific and geographical piece of organization, give me Scott; for a dash to the Pole and nothing else, Amundsen; and if I am in the devil of a hole and want to get out of it, give me Shackleton every time.”

Sadly, there are no Shackletons among our leadership.

The administration braved opposition from politicians and attempted the reorganization of administrative districts through mergers. An opinion poll of residents in 46 cities and counties mirrored general skepticism over the government initiative. Just six regions voted in favor of the plan.

But that was a good start that could have built into a relentless wave if the mergers prove successful. Moreover, one of them was a region that elected the person who is now the ruling party’s floor leader.

But a farce ensued two days later.

Lee Dal-gon, minister of public administration, in a National Assembly appearance, said two regions (coincidentally, the constituencies of the GNP floor leader and spokesman) aren’t part of the merger outline.

It took some time even for the ministry officials to comprehend the meaning behind the minister’s comment.

Finally it hit us clear as daylight. Their true colors were exposed. None of the cabinet ministers in charge of realigning state organizations nor the ruling party leaders had been serious about the merger plan.

Six was a better number than four. The merger plans would likely be approved by a vote of the respective local councils. If not, they will unlikely survive a residents’ referendum.

The minister said he had done his best and the rest of the work was to be shifted to the locals. And the poor locals had already fought among themselves.

If the minister cared, he should have spoken out against GNP floor leader Ahn Sang-soo, saying that a reorganization of administrative districts affects electorate constituencies, not the other way around.

In 1921, Shackleton embarked on his last quest for the South Pole despite ill health. He died of heart failure after reaching South Georgia. He was buried there at the request of his widow. He would have been happy to lie in the place of his dreams and much sought-after achievements.

Minister Lee should step down. He has already proven himself ineligible as a leader with neither devotion nor passion to strive for a meaningful moment of achievement.


*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Lee Hoon-beom
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