How to do exactly the wrong thing

Home > Opinion > Columns

print dictionary print

How to do exactly the wrong thing

Seo Seung-wook

The author is the head of the political news team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

How do you know when a restaurant guest is ready to order? They relax their body, which the good waiter will recognize from afar. This is a tip from the service manual of the Okura Hotel, one of the best in Japan. Here are some more: when you are cleaning a restroom, you must not look at the toilet bowl. Instead, you should sit on it because you have to view the room from the perspective of a guest. Doormen must check the meters of taxis before a guest gets in to make sure they’re reset.

These are examples of the kind of high-quality service offered by the Japanese hospitality industry. Omotenashi, which refers to wholeheartedly looking after guests, has impressed the world for a long time and given Japan’s service industry a deserved reputation for excellence. Korea’s hospitality culture has improved, but industry insiders say there is a long road ahead to catch up with Japan. Although workers work hard, they still have the supplier-centered perception that their satisfaction comes before the satisfaction of their guests.

I raise our hospitality culture to discuss the displeasure we felt during the Chuseok holiday that suppliers’ preferences were forced upon us. Throughout the holidays, what we faced were meals created by politicians without considering the public’s opinion.

The People Power Party (PPP) of President Yoon Suk-yeol presented a hastily-prepared political show of relaunching the leadership of the embattled party. After a local court granted an injunction filed by former PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok to suspend the party’s interim leader, the party pledged to form yet another leadership before the Chuseok holiday no matter what. After floor Leader Kweon Seong-dong took the initiative, the entire party followed to complete the mission.

It is understandable that the party wanted to quickly get over its embarrassing recent history and declare a new start before the holiday. But after more attempts, it formed another acting leadership led by yet another Yoon associate.

We still remember the disgraceful quarrel between the new acting chairman and Lee. But the PPP acted on its own to present the timetable and the new acting leadership. First and second-term lawmakers — who were once symbols of reform during the era of Lee Hoe-chang, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye — largely initiated the plan as if they were the special forces of the Yoon administration. They didn’t bother to evaluate and seriously reflect on fierce public criticism the administration faced after only four months in office.

The Democratic Party (DP) of Chairman Lee Jae-myung was equally terrible. Just before the holiday, all of the party’s 169 lawmakers sponsored a bill to appoint an independent counsel to investigate allegations surrounding first lady Kim Keon-hee. Some DP members believed the bill was as dangerous as a nuclear weapon, and warned the party must not hastily push the nuclear button. But their concerns were brushed off.

The idea of appointing an independent counsel investigation was an act of playing with fire by a few childish hardline lawmakers. But Chairman Lee decided to make it a mission of the DP as he had faced police and prosecution investigations before the holidays. As a result, the country was presented with a weird plan to go after the first lady for the sake of Lee’s survival.

“I oppose the plan to push forward an independent counsel bill that irritates the precious holiday,” said Rep. Cho Jung-hun of Transition Korea, representing the sentiment of the centrist voters.

President Yoon and his office are disappointing, too. The presidential office gave no response to various scandals and suspicions surrounding the first lady. There was no apology or explanation about her scandals. The inaction caused the DP to present the plan to go after her before the holidays. Not many people regard the prosecution and police’s investigation of her as being fair.

The Chuseok holiday should have been a time for lawmakers to compete with one another to offer topics attractive to the public and appeal for its sympathy. Politicians should have understood the public sentiments by looking at them from behind, just like the waiters at Japan’s best restaurants and hotels. The politicians should have sat on the toilet to understand the people’s hardships and get their perspective. But the reality was shockingly the opposite.

If the PPP had found a solution to its internal power struggle from self-reflection rather than hastily relaunching an anti-Lee Jun-seok leadership — and if DP Chairman Lee Jae-myung had coolly accepted the prosecution’s summons before demanding an independent counsel probe into the first lady — people would have applauded. When the demands of political consumers are completely ignored, politics will never be welcomed.
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)