[Letters] Lee should learn from Obama

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[Letters] Lee should learn from Obama

The long-lasting strife over the health care bill has finally ended in the United States. President Barack Obama signed the health care legislation into law on the 23rd of March.

Due to my interest in American politics, I kept track of the process over the year. What intrigued me was that there was endless communication, debates and attempts at persuasion going on by the Democratic Party and the White House concerning the law.

What held my attention the most was the endeavor by President Barack Obama to persuade both the Republicans and Democrats who opposed the bill. It surprised me when I heard that President Obama invited opposing congressmen to Air Force One and the White House to get their support. Even though President Obama failed to change the Republican opinion, I would say that this perseverance is what led to the passing of the bill.

Now, let’s look at Korea’s situation. We have policies in our country that are as controversial as the health care bill was in the United States. But can we see the same effort from our political leaders? Specifically speaking, do we have any memory of President Lee Myung-bak inviting leaders from the opposition parties to the Blue House to persuade them about the controversial Sejong City or the four rivers project?

To me, President Obama seems like a leader who has the ability to handle contentious issues. He endlessly talks with opposition members to make them change even though it doesn’t always succeed. Most importantly, he himself meets with the dissenters.

On the other hand, it is hard (maybe impossible) to see President Lee meeting with opposition leaders himself to talk about weighty issues.

If the original Sejong City plan is such a disaster, why not meet face-to-face with pro-Park representatives?

If the four river project is such an important task, why not meet with Democratic Party leaders to elucidate the project and ask for their compliance?

Some say the different political culture in Korea dissuades President Lee from doing what his U.S. counterpart did.

U.S. politics is individual-centered, meaning that members of congress don’t always follow their party orders.

However, Korean politics is party-centered, so it is hard for an individual to go against his or her affiliated party. This makes meeting with the opposition useless and impossible.

Well, that might be true, but that doesn’t mean the president cannot meet with his opposing camps.

I believe that if President Lee Myung-bak starts to meet with objectors to his policies face-to-face, it would create a whole new atmosphere in Korean politics.

Only then will the typical formula in Korean politics - the Blue House tries to implement a policy and the opposition opposes it without adequate reason - occur much less, and make more communication and persuasion possible.

I hope President Lee will show the determination to persuade his adversaries just as President Obama did in his country.


Jeon Jong-chan, senior student,

Gwacheon Foreign Language High School
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