It’s not too late, Mr. Moon
Moon Jae-in, presidential candidate of the main opposition Democratic United Party, was defeated by his rival Park Geun-hye of the ruling party by a margin of 3.6 percent in the December election (51.6 percent to 48 percent). If he had secured 2 percent more votes from Park supporters, he would have walked away as the winner by a razor-thin 0.4 percent margin.
He lost those votes because he crossed the line. Every election has silent majority voters who value character and quietly grade candidates on their thoughts and decency toward human rights, compassion and other common values. Moon failed them.
He posed as a formidable contender in the race, but someone of his status should have watched his mouth especially before accusing a person on national television. He should have learned from President Roh Moo-hyun. President Roh cited a specific person as a symbol of corporate corruption on a televised news conference to emphasize his crusade against corruption. The man - Nam Sang-kook, president of Daewoo Engineering & Construction - jumped to his death off a Han River bridge.
The tragedy dates back to March 11, 2004. Nam came under prosecution investigation on allegations of offering 30 million won ($28,150) to Roh Geun-pyong, the president’s elder brother, to seek his help to extend his chief executive term. The president said on live TV, “I hope we no longer see a person as successful and highly educated as the president of Daewoo Engineering kowtow to an insignificant person in the countryside and pay him bribes.”
After watching the news conference, Nam called up his lawyer and said, “I no longer can show my face now that I have been stigmatized as a criminal on national TV. I will be culpable for everything.” The incident occurred when Moon stepped down as the chief secretary on civil affairs to President Roh. Moon later told the president that it was wrong of him to name Nam publicly. Roh also is said to have deeply regretted it.
Nam’s family claimed that the president had insulted the deceased with no evidence and sued him for slander a few months before Roh committed suicide while his own family members also were under investigation for bribery. Nam’s family argued that Nam has never visited nor paid Roh’s brother, who was convicted of bribery unrelated to Nam. Moon has been a witness to this procession of incidents. He watched the tragic end to groundless allegations and accusations.
The DUP’s allegations that a National Intelligence Service agent was interfering with the election by posting slanderous comments on the Internet about Moon were totally baseless. The party’s former floor leader Park Jie-won recently said it had been wrong to raid someone’s home and confine her on suspicion of illegal electioneering upon a simple tip. His confession is shocking. If so, a promising president-hopeful erroneously accused a 28-year-old civilian and staff of the spy agency on national TV without any evidence.
If Moon acted differently, he actually could have become president. When his party members raided her apartment, he should have issued a statement apologizing for their over-the-top actions. If Moon criticized the party members for being rash and insensible and instead asked for a police investigation, his chance of winning the race could have improved by about 1 percent.
The police discovered no trace of online smear campaign activities against Moon from her computer. Moon should have immediately apologized to the victim. He should have visited her family to seek their forgiveness for tainting her reputation. His action again would have changed the tide in his favor by a margin of 1 percent. But he did the opposite. He joined the chorus with his party members and accused the NIS, the prosecution and the media of all collaborating to help the ruling party stay in power. He lost his senses.
Moon has long been a human rights lawyer. He advocated for people who were wrongfully accused. But he stood at the forefront of violating the rights of a weak single woman, only blinded by his ambition for power. His action raised serious questions about his qualifications as a state leader and as a lawyer too.
Leadership can be demonstrated at a crucial moment. If he had stood on the side of a civilian woman’s rights, he could have won more votes. The silent majority had been waiting to judge how a human rights lawyer-turned-politician addressed the incident. They were disappointed by a candidate who attacked the female without any grounds. It is not too late for Moon to apologize and make amends if he still has any leadership left.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Jin