[Viewpoint] It’s goodbye time for Strauss-KahnIt may be the same crime, but depending on who committed it, the story could remain unpublished or not make headlines. Not all crimes become news stories. Celebrity and rarity are important standards for determining newsworthiness.
Take the recent incident in which a 62-year-old hotel guest attempted to rape a 32-year-old hotel maid. The victim escaped and filed a report with the police. The man was arrested on charges of sexual assault and attempted rape. The case would not have made news had the suspected criminal been an ordinary man.
The world has been turned upside down over the sex scandal of International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Often referred as “DSK,” Strauss-Khan is the head of the international organization in charge of global economic policy and the world monetary order. He also was a leading presidential hopeful in France. Opinion polls predicted that if DSK ran as a Socialist candidate in the election in spring 2012, he would have had a landslide victory against any contender.
There are various theories along with shock and astonishment over the case. There are rumors that he lacks control over his libido and his past scandals are being revealed one after another. Nevertheless, it is hard to believe that a man of his status committed such a foolish crime.
Meanwhile, there are conspiracy theories. Those who wish for the fall of DSK may have set a trap for his libido. He may have mistaken the hotel maid who came to clean his room as an escort dressed up as a maid. DSK denies all of the charges against him. Of course, a suspect is presumed innocent until proven guilty. We need to wait for the court decision before criticizing DSK.
However, DSK has already been struck fatally. He was removed from the airplane right before departing for France. He was handcuffed and held in jail. Even if he is found not guilty of the charges, it looks like he won’t be able to continue his job as chief of the IMF. He will have to give up his presidential ambition as well.
The DSK scandal brought an unexpected storm in French politics. French voters are generous about what happens below the belt. No former and incumbent French president is free from criticism if a strict moral standard is applied. But the case of DSK is different. If the charges are proven, he is a criminal. Many voters will not support a sex offender no matter how competent he may be.
DSK used the global financial crisis as an opportunity to drastically expand the authority and capacity of the IMF. The organization’s operating fund grew from $250 billion to $750 billion. He also modified the financial structure that centered on the United States and Europe and expanded the quota for emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil at the G-20 Summit in Seoul last November.
The IMF is aggressively working to help Greece, Ireland and Portugal to overcome financial crises with extensive rescue packages. The future of the eurozone depends on how these countries get over the difficulties. Just as Europe was standing at a critical juncture, the sex scandal broke out. Greece is anxious about whether IMF will provide a promised rescue package.
Along with the World Bank, the IMF is half of the two pillars supporting the Bretton Woods system, the symbol of global financial and monetary order since World War II. Traditionally, the managing director’s position has been filled by Europeans while the first deputy managing director comes from the United States. With DSK in custody, John Lipsky became the acting managing director. However, Lipsky plans to resign in August, so the IMF will need a new head.
As the members’ quota has changed, a change in the governance of the organization is inevitable. The European quota decreased to 30.2 percent while the shares of emerging markets and developing countries have gone up to 42.3 percent. In the post Bretton-Woods system, it is a question whether the tradition of having a European head should remain.
The core of the global economy has already shifted from the G-7 of developed nations to the G-20 system that includes emerging economies. There is no reason why a competent figure from emerging markets and developing countries cannot lead the IMF. A historical upheaval often begins from a trivial coincidence. The incident in room 2806 at the Sofitel New York may start a storm that changes the frame of the global economy.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Bae Myung-bok