[Viewpoint] Learning to play the enemy’s game

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[Viewpoint] Learning to play the enemy’s game

Muhammad Ali, the legendary American boxer and three-time world heavyweight champion, was once involved in a historic boxing match with Antonio Inoki, a Japanese professional wrestling promoter, in 1976, before mixed martial arts made a name for itself.

Though it was a single-round contest for promotional purposes only, a match between these two figures from East and West was big enough to attract attention. But people were ultimately disappointed. The match came to a sudden end, with Ali leaping around and Inoki floundering on the ground from start to finish.

The reason for this was obvious. The two stuck to playing their own ways without agreeing to one set of rules for the bout. Inoki refused to confront Ali wearing boxing gloves, and Ali did not want to go into the ring without gloves. Both thought they would lose if they gave in to the demands of their counterparts, and there was no room for concessions of any kind.

The ongoing battle between the governing and opposition parties in the National Assembly these days reminds us of the frustrating confrontation between Ali and Inoki 30 years ago. The governing Grand National Party is at a loss as to how to cope with the opposition, which is against every issue raised by the GNP. People are fed up with their tedious games.

The four rivers restoration project is expected to be a central issue in budget deliberations for next year. The Democratic Party is determined to call for funding for Sejong City or revisions in the media laws. But there is no way they can win while engaging in these complicated battles for no good reason.

They were wrong to decide to hold the budget hostage as part of their fight against the four rivers project.

There are two main reasons for the Democratic Party’s stubbornness. One is concern about the rough-and-ready implementation of the project, and the other is the amount of the overall budget being devoted to the project.

Unfortunately for them, however, they lack a convincing justification to change the blueprint at this stage, nor would doing so be very useful.

They may slander the project all they want, but it will be difficult to get it canceled or overhauled. The four rivers restoration project is a key part of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s platform, and both the ruling party and the government are firmly committed to pushing it forward at any cost.

Water management is at the core of this immense infrastructure building campaign, and it is undeniably crucial that Korea secure a water supply and improve its quality. As long as the Democratic Party fails to demonstrate that this goal is basically wrong, their objections will remain of minor importance. The environment and budget allocation are issues that may be addressed during implementation and are not fatal flaws that justify suspending or canceling the project.

It is possible for the opposition party to have its voice heard, but only if it agrees on the purpose of the project and accepts the premise for its implementation. The Democratic lawmakers need to accept the rules and raise their objections accordingly. Every time the four rivers project becomes a controversial issue, they should join the battle on the president’s terms. There is no way to win an absolute victory while playing their counterpart’s game, because the Democratic Party made a strategic mistake at the National Assembly budget session, but at least their interests would be taken into account.

It is true that the president seems to be rushing to complete the four rivers restoration project during his term in office. However, the opposition party has failed to provide a sound logical basis for stopping him. And what is overlooked by the Democratic Party is that the four rivers project will garner the support of people in locales across the country as well as satisfy the president’s own desires.

Improving the water quality of the Yeongsan River is a long-awaited dream project of the citizens of South Jeolla, while securing a stable water supply for the Nakdong River will have a massive influence on the lives of citizens in the Gyeongsang provinces.

The rushed implementation of the project has resulted from earnest enthusiasm by local people to boost their economies. If the opposition truly wants to know why the plan is proceeding, they should listen to the opinions of the relevant citizens directly. The Democratic Party should consider how to play the game. If they continue to hold onto their counterpart’s ankles, they cannot succeed.

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

by Kim Jong-soo
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