Questions for the prime minister pick“When the future generation asks our generation what we have done for them and for the country, let’s make sure we don’t hesitate to say we worked hard for the modernization of Korea,” wrote President Park Chung Hee on Jan, 17, 1967.
A piece of calligraphy stating these words is displayed on the first floor of the government complex in Sejong-ro, Seoul. As I lay my eyes on the part that says “the modernization of Korea,” I feel deeply moved. I could feel the resolution of the author.
Park also wrote the lyrics of a song titled “My Country” in 1975: “Let’s create new history in the new glorious country and hand it down to the next generation.” It is enough to make me emotional, and should fully motivate and inspire civil servants.
Eight presidents have followed, and the modernization was completed long ago. But the calligraphy has remained in the same place for nearly half a century.
This marble plaque was saved even as the vestiges of the development-driven dictatorship were cleaned up.
On the ninth floor of the government complex is the prime minister’s office. He alternates between his workspace in Sejong City and here. If the prime ministerial nominee, Lee Wan-koo, is confirmed, he will see this piece of writing every time he enters the building. He will read it several times a day.
I’d like to ask him, “What have you done for the future generation and the country?” In the year that “My Country” was composed, he passed the Civil Service Examination. After working in the central government, he joined the police and served as a regional police commissioner. He was the governor of South Chungcheong and is now a third-time lawmaker. He must have done a lot for the country, but not much of it is known.
In fact, he is most associated with an allegation for making speculative real estate transactions. He purchased a luxury apartment and sold it after just several months, purchased a parcel of land in the capital region, whose price went up immediately, and turned over the land valued at 2 billion won ($1.8 million) to his 34-year-old second son. He is not different from the other nominees who failed to pass public approval and the confirmation hearing for focusing on their own career success and the accumulation of family wealth.
Soon, his fellow lawmakers will ask him solemn questions at the National Assembly confirmation hearing. He will have to answer what he has done for the country over the past 40 years. It is his duty to give honest answers to the countless civil servants and citizens of Korea.
The author is a deputy editorial writer
of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 5, Page 31
by LEE SANG-EON