Word once spoken is past recalling

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Word once spoken is past recalling

Recently, newspapers featured interesting photos of the Korean president. In one she was playing table tennis with a big smile on her face. It juxtaposed with another photo of her in her 20s, playing the same sport at a Blue House family event. The images of President Park Geun-hye, taken 36 years apart, show very different facial expressions.

Young Park is much more serious and tense. She seems to exude a sense of competitiveness. President Park is much gentler, with a more laid-back attitude. She seems to know what’s more important than winning.

This is the power of experience. Her photo makes us smile. But her words are not as gentle and wise as her face: “Evil practices are the ringleader taking away vitality from the economy”; “Unnecessary regulations are our enemy and cancerous cells that kill our bodies”; “I will accomplish regulation reform by putting them all on the guillotine.”

Her choice of language is so destructive and violent. And it’s getting worse.

There is nothing wrong with emphasizing deregulation. She may intend to push civil servants who are reluctant to promote reform. But she can gain nothing from a reign of terror with words, especially if she is pursuing a revolution.

Maximilien de Robespierre, who led the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, used his oratorical talent as his weapon. While he was leading the National Convention for two years, he made 872 speeches, and every time, he urged people to execute “the enemies of freedom.” While he was ready to sacrifice his life for the ideal value of people’s power, he refused to wear sans-culottes, the long pants that were the symbol of the people, and was sent to the guillotine in culottes, the short pants associated with aristocrats. Perhaps this was Robespierre’s limit. He didn’t realize that small actions personally demonstrated by a leader are more powerful than a loud voice.

We don’t doubt the sincerity of the president. But if she really means what she says, she needs to prove it with actions, not words. Who will listen to her if she shouts at others while ignoring the criticism heaped upon her? People will only cover their ears when she raises her voice.

U.S. writer Washington Irving wrote in the short story “Rip Van Winkle,” “Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony rolled on; a tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener by constant use.”

The part about temper may not be true, considering that the president now enjoys table tennis. But the latter part is.

The author is an international news editor

of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 28, Page 31

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