No more slips of the tongueYoon Seok-youl, former chief prosecutor running for president from the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), made a baffling comment about former President Chun Doo Hwan. Yoon claimed that “many agree about his political achievements” if not for his military coup and Gwangju massacre. After his comment stirred controversy, Yoon explained that he meant to say that he, if elected, will recruit experts to government offices as Chun did. Yoon added that the military regime of Chun as a dictatorship is an undeniable fact.
The DP sneered that the comparison is similar to claiming that Adolf Hitler was a good politician if not for massacres. Former Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong, Yoon’s presidential rival from PPP, said the comment raises “serious questions” about Yoon’s potential as a presidential contestant.
Yoon denied praising Chun, but added that policies that had resulted well in any government should be benchmarked, as seen in Chun’s recruitment of scholar Kim Jae-ik as his economic advisor. Whatever he had meant to say, Yoon’s reference to Chun cannot be appropriate. Even without the coup and actions against the Gwangju democratization movement, Chun’s regime is notorious for a long list of misdeeds — from oppression of democracy movements to the forced merger of media organizations, civilian rights violation and a slush fund scandal.
He has had many slips of the tongue. In Daegu, he said a revolt might have occurred in other places if a lockout was proposed as in the case of the city after the first wave of the virus outbreak. He stirred a protest from young people when he said it was preferable to work 120 hours a week if necessary while criticizing the government’s 52-hour workweek mandate. He kept explaining that his comments were misrepresented. Still, his immaturity in political language and empathy cannot be denied.
Politicians are defined by their language. Political language is the means to represent philosophies and visions. TV debates are held so that the public can judge candidates through their words.
Yoon must know that the political realm and the prosecution, which he commanded, are entirely different. A president cannot oversee all affairs, but placing important decisions in the hands of experts is not necessarily right. The president must be able to have the last say and appoint the right person in the right place with the right perspective on global affairs. Yoon must watch what he says if hopes to become president whose words have enormous ramifications.