In crisis, the best ship is leadership

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In crisis, the best ship is leadership


If you visit the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, you can see a sign “The best ship in times of crisis is leadership.” Park Jin, former lawmaker and chairman of the National Assembly’s foreign affairs, trade and unification committee, told me that he had personally seen the phrase when he visited the naval academy.

Park, who had served as a naval officer, said that he became friends with former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. At the publishing party of the Korean edition of Powell’s memoir, “My American Journey,” Park cited the phrase and Powell was very pleased. He said that it was the best quote on leadership he had ever heard, and as long as the proper citation is given to the U.S. Naval Academy, it can be used anytime.

Leadership is especially needed in times of crisis. When a ship is sailing in storm, it may sink or survive depending on the leadership of the captain. The presidential election, approaching in 80 days, is a precious opportunity to select the leader who can bring the ship of South Korea safely to the port. Each voter may have different criteria for selection, but the most crucial standard may be the integrity of the candidate.

A man of integrity acts consistently according to his values, convictions and principles. He is truthful inside out and lives by his words. His words and actions are not so different whether he is in front of other people or he is alone.

According to Yale University law professor Stephen Carter, integrity is completed through three steps. The first step is to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. The second step is to act on the bases of your belief, even if it means a loss for you personally. The third is to say openly that you are acting based on your own judgment of right and wrong. These three steps can tell you if someone is a person of true integrity.

When Park Geun-hye, the presidential candidate of the ruling Saenuri Party, made an apology for controversial historical issues, Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party and independent runner Ahn Cheol-soo highly praised her statement. They said, “It must have been a hard task, but she did a noble thing,” and “The apology must have not been easy, but she did what she had to do.” The three rivals know how to make a decision when it is needed and can acknowledge the value of the decision. Am I too naive and rash to harbor a hope that Korea may be able to have leadership with integrity for the first time in the history of the republic?

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

by Bae Myung-bok

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