Try Roh’s way
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Monticello, a plantation owned by Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, is a tourist destination in a small town in Virginia. When I visited while working as Washington correspondent, I found it puzzling. The Declaration of Independence, which begins “All men are created equal,” was hung alongside the terrible conditions that hundreds of his slaves suffered under.
He must have been one of the “Gangnam liberals,” who frequently travel to Paris to purchase wine. Jefferson constantly spoke of freedom and equality, but he didn’t like black slaves in the banquet hall so he invented a wine delivery machine between the cellar and the dining hall. His extramarital affair with a black maid was a major scandal in the early days of the United States.
Other great American presidents had flaws. Lincoln was a skilled politician who attained emancipation rather than being a “great liberator.” There were many conspiracies. William Seward, his rival for Republican presidential candidate, was better in terms of belief and will. Lincoln was elected as the candidate because he was moderate. However, that doesn’t damage the accomplishment of Jefferson as a founding father and Lincoln’s contribution to emancipation.
While they may not have been “perfect idols,” they successfully saw through and carried out the calling of the time. Their leadership of tolerance turned the divided country over regions and factions into a melting pot. It is not that Americans have a gene that helps them easily forget the past and forgive enemies. It is not the wind but the sail that sets the direction of the ship.
The biggest reason for Jefferson’s election was the complete support from Republicans in the south. However, he beat the pressure and established a bipartisan cabinet. He continued the principles from 12 years of the federalists’ rule. After the Civil War, not a single person was executed as a war criminal. The United States did not clear its past. The prescription to overcome the crisis was to share, communicate and tolerate.
Korea is the opposite. People find and create energy from cursing and dividing. When you see a small weakness, you attack it. The president’s open and frequent criticism of the opposition party is no different. Recently, he censured the opposition party on a confidential information leak. He also mentioned the “descendants of dictators.” With the same logic, the “cabinet secrets” of the former administration shouldn’t have been exposed. Also, what solution can he find if he meets with “the unreasonable descendants of dictators who lack principles” in the Blue House?
The National Assembly hasn’t met for over a month. It is nothing new. In the 20th National Assembly, the ruling and opposition parties had more discussions to normalize operations that coordinate bills. This time, four ruling and opposition parties, except for the Liberty Korea Party, forcibly changed the electoral system and processed a bill on an investigation agency on high-ranking public officials’ corruption, who are called “airborne troops of the president.” The electoral system revision was boasted as the core of reform, but now, increasing the number of assemblymen is being considered. More than 70 percent of the public oppose.
The correct answer is to retract the coercive changes to the electoral system and make the investigation agency on high-ranking public officials’ corruption independent from the president, but it is not likely.
In his inauguration speech, the president declared the opposition a “partner in state administration” and pledged to remove unchallenged power agencies. However, installing an investigation agency on high-ranking public officials’ corruption would stimulate and reinforce an imperial presidency.
Former President Roh Moo-hyun also had personal flaws and he had discord with opposition parties. However, he did not adhere to his supporters. He sent troops to Iraq and proposed a grand coalition with the “descendants of dictators.” His sincerity must have made former U.S. President Bush visit Bongha Village. He thought that it was a blessing to suffer a loss. “Foolish Roh Moo-hyun” chose the way of loss. The United States and the opposition party have not changed since then.
Why are the United States and the opposition party of President Moon different from those of former President Roh?
JoongAng Ilbo, May 31, Page 30