[Viewpoint] A nongentleman from PyeongchangThe biggest global winter sporting festival will be held in the small city of Pyeongchang in 2018. And Democratic Party lawmaker Choi Jong-won represents the history-making city in the National Assembly.
Mr. Choi was in South Africa as a member of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Bid Committee when the president of the International Olympic Committee announced the election result for the host city. President Lee Myung-bak, first lady Kim Yoon-ok and former Gangwon Province governor Kim Jin-sun were also present. When President Jacques Rogge announced “Pyeongchang,” everyone stood up and raised their hands in joy.
About 70 days before the triumph in Durban, Choi gave a speech at a rally for the by-election of the Gangwon governor.
“The president’s household is so corrupt that the president’s brother received money and his wife does everything to get money clandestinely,” he said.
“Their conduct should be investigated by the National Assembly. When the Democratic Party wins the general election, they will all end up in jail. Everyone will be sent to prison, including Kim Jin-sun.”
President Lee, the head of the household that “received money clandestinely,” practiced his Olympic presentation in English very hard and met with IOC members to pitch Pyeongchang’s candidacy. First lady Kim, who did “everything to get money clandestinely,” worked hard to assist the president in convincing the IOC members. Ex-governor Kim Jin-sun, who should “end up in jail,” has become a hero who created a miracle for the remote mountainous town in Gangwon Province.
When the Democratic Party won the by-election, Choi Jong-won must have thought the world would forget what he said at the rally, especially after Pyeongchang won the Olympic bid. When the delegation returned to Korea and arrived at Incheon International Airport, Mr. Choi also received flowers.
Amid such celebrations and applause, he must have believed that his comment about the House of Lee would fade away. In fact, many people have forgotten. The Grand National Party filed a complaint, but that has been forgotten as well. When Choi refused to obey the summons, the prosecutors dropped the case.
However, even if the people of Gangwon Province have forgotten, and the ruling and opposition parties, and the prosecutors as well, the media hasn’t. The day after the by-election, an editorial in the JoongAng Ilbo read: “The April 27 by-election was held yesterday, but there is one thing that needs to be resolved for the health of the community. We have to address the practice of indiscriminate attacks used to get votes.”
The editorial continued: “The prosecutors must investigate thoroughly, and the National Assembly should bring Choi to the Ethics Committee. The case should not be buried just because the election is over. The venerable Beopjeong agonized over ‘the price of words’ before he passed away. The price of the words of a low-grade assemblyman will turn into an acidic rain of shame over his constituencies of Taebaek, Yeongwol, Pyeongchang and Jeongseon in Gangwon Province and the entire nation.”
Choi is a notable case of a political newcomer who learned politics the bad way. He must have thought politicians can speak as they wish and all their words will be forgotten when they wish them to be. He seems to believe that a member of the National Assembly has the right to harangue others while being totally self indulgent himself. In August of last year, as the head of the DP’s Gangwon Provincial chapter, Cho said at a party training session, “Originally, my hobby and expertise were drinking and cursing. In theater circles, actors consider my curses more than foul language and think they have profound meaning.”
At the confirmation hearing for culture minister nominee Shin Jae-min, Chi said, “Through my forty-year-career as a stage actor, I was taught that I should learn to be a human before becoming an artist. Now that the nominee admits his faults, he should bow out.”
Choi Jong-won, also a member of the Pyeongchang bid committee, has used vulgar words to criticize the president, the first lady and ex-governor Kim Jin-sun, who sat on the committee with him.
If the IOC members had known about Choi’s assertions during the by-election, what would they have thought? They might have assumed that Pyeongchang was a subpar region considering the lack of dignity of its local lawmaker.
The Pyeongchang Olympics is evidence that an insignificant frontier can be transformed into something great with passion and efforts. With the Olympics as inspiration, Choi Jong-won should learn something. He should learn to behave with dignity and grace.
Moreover, he should realize that politics require prudence and composure. As he said, it is more important to become a civilized human being before becoming a politician. If Choi learns a little courtesy, it would be another gift that the Pyeongchang Olympics bring.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Jin