[Viewpoint] Something just doesn’t feel rightI used to be his fan. I liked his angular face. Most of all, I liked the critical tone as he lashed out “preposterous!” when the weak had been violated by the powerful. He was one of my favorite news presenters of our time.
Anyone over 25 without a criminal record can apply to run in mayoral or gubernatorial elections. Former Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation President Ohm Ki-young, 60, is well qualified to run in the April 27 by-election for the Gangwon governor seat. A recent poll puts him well ahead of other candidates with an approval rating as high as 42.2 percent.
Ohm earlier this week walked into the Grand National Party branch in Chuncheon, Gangwon, and joined the ruling party. Anyone in this country is free to choose a political party. But somehow, something feels not right. Several memories are called up to ignite the rush of adrenaline.
Four producers and a scriptwriter at MBC’s investigative news program “PD Diary” were indicted by prosecutors last June on charges of distorting facts and exaggerating the risk of mad cow disease in imported U.S. beef in an episode on the issue in April 2008. Presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan after the indictment said the entire executive team would have apologized and stepped down if such a thing happened in foreign countries. Ohm, then president of the nationwide broadcasting network, growled back, “I decide to step down or not and don’t take orders from a big gun.”
Icy relations between the outspoken veteran reporter and the ruling sector went on. First-term members of the GNP issued a statement a few days later demanding MBC senior executives take responsibility for the damages “PD Diary” caused. But Ohm stood tall and only resigned seven months later. As he left the building, he told the labor union head to be brave and stand up against the government forces trying to use a carrot and stick to tame news broadcasting.
His uprightness and professionalism moved many, inviting seduction from political circles. The main opposition Democratic Party wanted him badly. Politicians frequented his doorsteps for petitions and pleas to lure him to their parties ahead of the local elections in June last year. He politely turned them down every time, telling them that his wish is to be remembered as a journalist. He had been that cool.
But it is hard for a human to fight temptation. Even the late Venerable Beopjeong in his best-selling book “Non-possession” confessed that he was able to let go of the last chain of attachment after he gave away his favorite plant. It goes without saying how desires are difficult to resist to the mundane, especially when they are at hand’s reach.
Desire can be tolerated if it is accompanied by conscience and morality. Ohm’s mind may have gone through hell as he sat down to write his statement to run as a ruling party candidate. His journalistic instinct would have made him so. His speech read, “I chose the GNP despite my career with MBC because of Gangwon. All possible resources are necessary to resolve the problems and issues in Gangwon. It needs concentrated support from the government and the ruling party. It is why I chose the GNP ticket.”
What humbug. He said nothing about why he joined politics in the first place and cowardly used Gangwon residents as his excuse. He would have come across as more honest if he said outright that he was conservative from the beginning.
What words are ready from Ohm for the voters in Gangwon who put 10 candidates from the opposition party in the mayoral and gubernatorial posts in the last election? He said he needs government and ruling party support to solve the regional problems. He has a good chance of being elected governor of Gangwon. But what if the 2012 presidential election results change the ruling party? Upon his words, in order to gain “concerted support from the government and the ruling party for the people of Gangwon,” he would have to cross the floor.
The GNP is more pitiful. The lawmakers who rallied and issued statement against Ohm have all turned their heads. In the game of politics, principles and integrity must be easy giveaways. The 44.2 percent approval rating comes from Ohm’s aura of empathy and connection with the people. The number may shrivel away if he loses such quality.
Politicians are abhorred not because they are bad people, but because of their penchant for vulgarity and tricks. Politics are often a mud fight. Ohm’s joining the circus is indeed - to use his own favorite commentary - “preposterous.”
*The writer is a senior reporter on international affairs of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Park Seung-hee