[Viewpoint] The true caliber of a great leader

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[Viewpoint] The true caliber of a great leader

A community can choose an ideology as its guiding principle. To a nation or a political party, an ideology serves as an a unifying outlook. Just as a person with a weak perspective will struggle through the course of his life, a political party will be shaken if its ideology is unreliable. The more challenging the environment, the more important the strength of the vision.

Similarly, ideology is even more important to a country in confrontation with a provocative communist power. To such a nation, breaking away from ideology means giving up a global vision. In a country like Korea, an ideology-driven politician is very essential.

Chun Yu-ok is an archetype of the ideology-driven politician. During the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration, extreme leftists and progressives threatened the national security and law and order. Chun fought against them. Her struggle continued in the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration.

In February 2009, when the mad cow scare still lingered, she was attacked at the National Assembly. She was preparing a bill to restore the honor of seven police officers who had died on duty during the Dong-eui University incident in 1989. And the family members of the students who led the protest against the university’s admission corruption attacked her. Her cornea was torn, and her muscles were damaged. She was diagnosed with wounds that would take eight weeks to heal.

When she was unexpectedly attacked, Chun was a powerless 50-year-old woman, not a warrior. Her psychological shock was greater than her physical pain. She couldn’t eat or sleep and had to resort to pain killers and sleeping pills. She must have been lonely and scared in her hospital bed, with all the different thoughts running through her mind.

An organization should protect those who have suffered damage while defending the legitimate value of the organization. Especially someone who suffered symbolic and fearful damage, just like Chun Yu-ok, deserves to be embraced. Such a politician should be nominated vigorously even if there are a few faults.

Nevertheless, the Saenuri Party did not nominate Chun even when she has no flaws. The nomination committee did not provide any explanation. There were speculations over the opinion poll and the cut-off support rating, but no one provided evidence. The party abandoned her too easily.

But the nomination committee must have felt burdened to nominate Chun. She has been public enemy No. 1 to Saenuri Party’s interim leader Park Geun-hye and the emergency leadership council. Park and the council may feel hostile to her. When Park was the chairwoman of the former Grand National Party, Chun was a close aide to Park as a spokeswoman. But before the 2007 primary, she broke with Park. Chun openly argued that Park should not be elected president as she lacked knowledge and communication skills and always wanted to be treated like a princess.

Chun also sharply criticized the emergency leadership committee. Kim Jong-in, a member of the committee, had served a prison term for taking a bribe of 210 million won ($186,900). Chun pointed out that Lee Sang-don, another member of the committee, had been on the hostile side of the party.

The 27-year-old Lee Jun-seok lacks a sense of identity. He said he respected Lee Jung-hee, the chairwoman of the Unified Progressive Party. She attacked spokesman Hwang Young-cheul as a man who had opposed the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. Chun’s arguments are completely valid, and she has said crucial things at crucial times.

The main opposition Democratic United Party did not give nominations to the lawmakers who served as ministers and were positive toward the Korea-U.S. FTA. The Saenuri Party criticized that the DUP was trying to create a clique by driving out anyone with different opinions.

But the Saenuri Party has failed to embrace their own opponents. If Chun has created trouble with false claims, she deserves to be reprimanded. But the emergency council or the nomination committee did not provide any counter arguments. Instead, it has pushed out a long-time comrade with a strange creature called an “opinion poll.”

A tribe that abandons warriors cannot win a fight. If the group abandons a warrior who suffered serious injury while fighting on the frontline, who would want to take the lead? A politician who cannot embrace a critic cannot become a great leader. Having witnessed the case of Chun Yu-ok, who would dare to say no to Park Geun-hye or her cronies?

Park Geun-hye herself has suffered a terror attack and should know the fear better than anyone. If Park had visited Chun in her hospital room three years ago and said, “Let’s try to make changes together,” many things would have been different. That is the true caliber of a great leader.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin
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