Rhetorical rumpus

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Rhetorical rumpus

A key Blue House official recently said, “If the Sejong City issue drags on without a conclusion, then [President Lee Myung-bak] will make an important decision at an appropriate time.” The official also said that once the “important decision” is made, the revised development plan will be chosen. Some media and those in political circles have interpreted these words to mean that the government is pursuing a referendum.

It’s easy to see that Lee has no ulterior motive to a revision of the Sejong picture, and he must be disappointed with the resistance from opposition parties and the pro-Park Geun-hye sector. When the pro-Park members say there cannot be any change to the party platform and they would not follow it if any change took place, the president must feel frustrated. But for the Blue House to mention some major decision is imprudent, logically and politically.

The Grand National Party has wrapped up five days of discussions and is taking steps to form a consultative group of veterans. It has not been easy, but the Sejong problem appears to be on the right track. It’s not clear whether the veterans would produce any agreement, but we’re moving toward a modified party platform and a National Assembly vote.

The Blue House came out of the blue to mention some “important decision” to throw things off-kilter. Is there an emergency that requires the president’s attention?

The situation with North Korea is serious enough. The mere mention of this major decision would unnecessarily make the public extra wary. If this “important decision” approach was a political strategy to pressure opponents to accept the revision, then it was off the mark and ineffective. Sejong City is not such a unilateral or moral issue that some “important decision” would work. It is a disputed issue that will invoke conflicting arguments.

The Blue House has not acknowledged its hope for a referendum, nor has it vehemently denied it. Many Koreans actually support the referendum. Former President Kim Young-sam and other political luminaries have called for one. But it’s more likely that they’ve grown tired of the Sejong debate than thought long and hard about the complicated nature of a referendum.

A referendum is not to be chosen on impulse. Some argue that it is unconstitutional and it has also been a politically and socially controversial matter. While trying to steer around Sejong, we could run into even bigger problems.

Former President Roh Moo-hyun pursued such “important decisions” as a recall election and grand coalition, which only led to his demise. North Korea also often uses this tactic, warning that if the Lee administration maintained a hostile policy, then it “would have to reach an important decision, including severing the inter-Korean ties.”

Floating this term is anachronistic as it does not suit modern politics. It would help the Sejong cause if the Blue House let it go.
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