[Viewpoint] Move the hearts of the people, pleaseKorean society has a number of structural problems: polarization, youth unemployment, welfare for the aging population, unbalanced regional development and a private education frenzy to name a few. These chronic illnesses attack the administration in every election season. No matter how hard the president tries to build up strength, getting over the chronic illnesses is not easy.
Accomplishments like overcoming economic crises, the largest corporate earnings in history and the biggest welfare budget, becoming one of the seven largest traders in the world, hosting the G-20 Summit and pursuing a consistent North Korean policy are not enough. So President Lee Myung-bak may feel it is unfair.
However, he should not feel undeserved considering the psychology of the voters. Many citizens pay just as much attention to the attitude and approach of the administration toward certain issues as the issues themselves. If the administration moves the hearts, people will have favorable feelings even if the outcome is problematic. Many citizens would think, “The president is not God and he wouldn’t have an easy solution for a difficult problem. But we can trust him if he leaves a good impression.”
The good impression here means refreshing, reformist and devoted. In fact, the impression of an administration is the impression of the key figures in the government. The voters have already chosen the president. Therefore, the president’s appointment choices make up the rest of the impression. Though that will determine the impression of his administration, the Lee administration has failed miserably here.
Three years ago, it must have been a very difficult choice for lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk to decide whether he should run for the National Assembly seat once again. He must have thought, “I am serving my fifth term and why should I give up my candidacy just because my brother became the president?”
So he chose to keep pursuing power and a series of incidents happened as a result. Park Geun-hye’s supporters were “massacred” in the party’s nomination for lawmakers, and unusually large funding for his district was called “Big Brother’s Budget.” The preferential appointments of people affiliated with the Pohang and North Gyeongsang region also became a controversy.
If he had chosen to leave the power circle three years ago, his brother’s administration would have been in a completely different situation as it would have earned a reputation for sacrificing personal interests for greater cause.
Minister of Special Affairs Lee Jae-oh had been a democratic activist of the progressive People’s Party who had been in prison for a long time. So he should be a symbol of reform, standing for innovative changes to end the old politics of greed and idleness and lead the reform to save the administration.
However, what he chased was not reform but ambition. He was deeply involved in the nomination massacre of the Park Geun-hye faction and created a discord by pursuing convenient maintenance of power.
For any administration, the young faction should also be innovative and original. However, the young politicians of the Grand National Party are not innovative at all, whether they are mainstream or moderates. In a way, they resemble the old and conventional party members. As they advocate reform and change, not one of them came out to Seoul Plaza when violent protesters threatened the administration쟈with massive demonstrations amid rage over mad cow disease.
And not a single member of the ruling party staged a protest to denounce the Democratic Party for siding with North Korea when our naval corvette Cheonan sank. The young ruling party politicians steadfastly remain silent during crises and when the ruling party loses an election, they suddenly turn criticism on the administration.
The Grand National Party is one axis of the administration. Have the party leaders impressed the citizens? The party chairman claims that he never received an enlistment letter while studying for a state bar examination. And his deputy ignored the party chief and had his own agenda.
The members of the party’s supreme council were busy attacking one another instead of contemplating how to support the administration’s success. The departing party chief’s last word was, “They bite me into pieces like piranhas.”
The Lee administration puts these actors on the stage and asks the audience why the show is so unpopular. The audience refuses to buy tickets to the show and looks at the producers and directors with sad eyes.
Why does President Lee have no original, reform-minded and devoted deputies? Will the next president be backed up by reliable aides?
Election victory does not guarantee a successful administration. The president is chosen by the voters but his success depends on his choices. Politicians who can move the hearts of the people will be able to save the administration.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Jin