If you want to build a ship...

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If you want to build a ship...


I wrote a column titled “Whether you choose to spit on the grave or not.” I had expressed regrets for the lack of “tolerance politics” when Moon Hee-sang, interim chairman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), skipped a visit to the graves of Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee and instead visited the grave of Kim Dae-jung on New Year’s Day at the National Cemetery.

As with all things in life, justification and interests are tradeoffs in politics. It is a zero-sum game of gaining one for losing one. As the ruling and opposition parties engage in frequent negotiations, one side gets to keep the justification by giving away the corresponding interest to the other side to maintain a balance.

But tolerance lets politicians take separate interests at the same time. The leader who displays the politics of tolerance ultimately attains a greater vision. The modern history of Korea proves the power of tolerance.

On Dec. 5, two weeks before the 1997 presidential election, the former National Congress for New Politics candidate Kim Dae-jung visited the birthplace of Park Chung Hee in Gumi, North Gyeongsang, and held hands with his son Park Ji-man. On Aug. 21, 2012, then Saenuri Party presidential candidate Park Geun-hye visited the grave of former President Roh Moo-hyun in Bongha Village, South Gyeongsang, a day after she received the party’s nomination at the primary.

“Politics by the Dead” by Ha Sang-bok is about the encounters between the living and the dead in front of graves. Ha wrote, “The living politically use the dead in power dynamics.”

The day after Moon Jae-in became chairman of the NPAD, the opposition party leader visited the graves of Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee. And he wrote in the visitors’ register, “Every part of history makes up the Republic of Korea.” His embracing of the two former presidents with an ideological stance different to his deserves praises. In a Gallup poll, 65 percent said he did the right thing, while only 12 percent said it was a bad move.

When Moon was a presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in 2012, he only visited Kim Dae-jung’s grave. This time, he acted like a political leader who embraces his opponents.

Now, it is time to prove that it was not just a show. By displaying the politics of tolerance, he now needs to propose an agenda.

He may take a cue from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince.” “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

The author is a deputy political news editor of the JTBC.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 16, Page 30

by KIM HYUNG-KOO

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