[Viewpoint] This guy went to Oxford?Oxford University in England was founded in 1096 and has been educating students for 915 years. For over nine centuries, Oxford contributed to the enlightenment of humanity with a progressive and open philosophy. It embraced the Italian Renaissance in the 16th century, leading the cultural restoration of England. The school provided a foundation of knowledge for the industrialization of the 18th century and the women’s enlightenment movement in the 19th century.
The prestigious institution has educated many notable figures who contributed to world history. Two kings of England and 26 prime ministers, 13 kings of other countries and 35 heads of states, 12 religious saints and 47 Nobel laureates studied there.
Familiar names include U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, philosophers John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, physicist Stephen Hawking and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
All of these great men and women were armed with the skills of reasoning taught at Oxford and went on to become pioneers in world history. They all had different perspectives on the world, but they did not deviate from rationality when resolving problems. They did not agitate or deceive the people for selfish interests. They did not change positions easily or willfully deny the lessons of the past for the fleeting interests of today.
But one of Oxford’s graduates does not fit the general profile of the school. He is Sohn Hak-kyu, the head of the Democratic Party. Sohn studied at Oxford from 1981 to 1987 and received a doctorate in politics. He went on to teach politics and international affairs at Inha University and Sogang University.
As a member of the Grand National Party, Sohn served three terms in the National Assembly and was a minister and the governor of Gyeonggi. But he spat in the party’s well and moved over to its opposition. In that position, he is the man leading a march of agitation and illusion.
In October 2010, the price of cabbage skyrocketed, and a humble head of cabbage sold for 10,000 won ($8.75). Because of the unusually hot summer, excessive monsoon rain and typhoons, production in the highland regions decreased drastically. However, Sohn blamed the four-rivers restoration project of the Lee Myung-bak administration, arguing that the project shrunk cabbage fields near the rivers. This year, the construction on the project was completed.
According to Sohn’s theory, even more cabbage patches should have been lost and the price of cabbage should have risen. But a head of cabbage costs 2,000 won this year. Notable economists such as Adam Smith and Alfred Marshall also studied at Oxford. They would undoubtedly find Sohn’s theory of cabbage prices refreshingly original. They might have nominated Sohn for the Nobel Prize in Economics if they were alive.
After changing his allegiance to the Democratic Party, Sohn opposes everything associated with the Lee Myung-bak administration. The four-rivers restoration project is meant to promote balanced regional development. He claims it is a canal project in disguise. Now that the project is finished, where is the disguised canal?
The Korea-U.S. FTA will attract foreign investment. Sohn is proud that 114 companies invested a total of $14.1 billion when he was governor of Gyeonggi. As governor, he supported the FTA. But now that he’s leading the opposition, he villifies it. If Oscar Wilde, also an Oxfordian, were alive, he might have written a play about Sohn entitled “The Dizzy Dance of an Oxford Son.”
This Oxford graduate once hoped to become the presidential candidate of the ruling party. Another politician, Chung Dong-young, who was a renowned journalist and TV anchor, was also a presidential candidate. Now, the two are leading the Democratic Party’s opposition to the FTA.
In the past, those two politicians emphasized the opening of the Korean economy and supported the FTA. Now, they are spitting on it as if it is poisoned bread. Had the voters desired, they could have been the president of Korea.
Poet T.S. Eliot, author of “The Waste Land,” also went to Oxford. He wrote, “April is the cruelest month,” as the spring rain is supposed to awakens roots that actually have no life. Compared to April, “Winter kept us warm covering earth in forgetful snow.” The winter will soon arrive. Can the snow cover Koreans’ memories of Sohn and Chung? If their memories stay alive, next April may be crueler and more dizzying.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Jin