A politician’s short fuse

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A politician’s short fuse

We are dumbfounded at the erratic behavior of Representative Lee Hae-chan. A former prime minister and a frontrunner in the race for the chairmanship of the main opposition Democratic United Party, Lee lost his temper in a live, telephone radio interview and hung up on the interviewer yesterday. Although notorious for his volatile personality, Lee went too far this time. We cannot but question his qualifications as a candidate for the DUP chairmanship.

Lee’s biggest problem is his twisted views on the press. Lee attributed the fiasco to an “unexpected question” tossed at him by the host of the morning news program. Customarily, politicians receive a list of potential questions from the interviewer before an interview. This time too, YTN had sent him seven questions, one of which was about how he views the below-the-belt verbal attack by Lim Soo-kyung, a pro-North Korean student activist-turned-DUP lawmaker, on a North Korean defector-turned-university student in Seoul. YTN asked the question in the latter part of the live interview, and Lee abruptly got mad as the interviewer followed up on the question.

It is natural for the press to depart from their original questions. If an interview only goes as planned in advance, it is nothing but a conversation conducted according to a script. A good interview always features unexpected questions and the politicians’ spontaneous answers.

Lee’s refusal to answer the questions looks authoritarian and arrogant and it denies the audience’s right to hear his views on a critical issue. Politicians endeavor to explain their thoughts on current issues to get approval from the public. But Lee seems to lack the understanding of a basic idea in a civil society.

Lee insisted in a press conference that he didn’t hang up on the phone one-sidedly. But that’s not true. Lee was obviously enraged and unwilling to listen to the interviewer any longer.

Lee blamed the press for getting him in trouble over his pro-North orientation and what amounted to an advocacy of Lim’s trash-talk remarks. Amid a public uproar over Lim’s drunken boorishness, it is the press’ duty to get a political bigwig’s response to any issue and raise questions about his basic attitudes.

Lee seems to be busy holding the press accountable for his travails rather than admitting misbehavior. He must calm down and look into himself. He is not an ordinary man, but a powerful politico eager to lead the main opposition party. He must demonstrate a humble attitude.

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