Monday, October 10, 2005

All I can say is wow.....

A President Reviled Means a Country Shamed by Kim Dae-joong

Perhaps no other country has seen its elected president become the object of so much ridicule among citizens as ours. Whatever meeting you go to and whatever taxi you take, you find the president caricatured. Sometimes he is subject to indescribable slander. In the past, people brought up the subject after giving their interlocutor a thorough once-over and lowering their voice; these days it is a way of starting up a conversation. The president’s prestige is at a low ebb, and the shame is the country’s.

On the contrary, some say, the fact that the president is being abused and ridiculed is proof that we live in a free country; they say complaining about power and men of power has long been a way for the public to relieve stress. They may have a point. It is a fact that in the past people kept mum even if they wanted to abuse the head of state for fear of being arrested. But while past attacks came from political resistance to authoritarianism, the current ones reflect a sort of contempt borne out of resentment of economic hardship and distrust of government policies.
The people’s lives are getting more difficult by the day. The problem is no longer how to eat and live better, but how to eat and live. Consequently, people abuse men in power and the chief executive not out of a frustrated sense of expectation, but from their indignation that the president and government are unable to understand their suffering and disappointment. When they cannot see a future for themselves, how can they respect the president and prime minister? So they turn to abuse and ridicule.

But incompetence and lack of policies on the part of the president and the ruling forces have their part to play, and so does the gap between the way they see the world and the way their rulers do. In other words, the world the president and his associates have made baffles people and makes them uneasy.

A country where one Prof. Kang Jeong -koo of Dongguk University -- man who has hailed the “spirit of Mangyongdae” (where Kim Il-sung lies embalmed) -- threatens to sue the Republic of Korea at the UN if he is prosecuted for his remarks; a government that doesn’t pay attention to the return of South Koreans abducted to the North and prisoners of war still languishing there, even while attempting to return North Korean spies who served long prison terms here home to the North; a government that does not utter a word of complaint when a long-term prisoner is publicly praised as a "patriotic fighter”; a country whose Human Rights Commission says restrictions on students' hairstyles breach their human rights but averts its eyes from the starvation and suffering of our brethren in North Korea; a country whose unification minister slanders a majority of the people as Cold War relics; a country where huge numbers of people flock to the North to watch the "Arirang" mass calisthenics, which North Koreans have been
forced to rehearse at the end of a club -- that is the sort of state the president has got us into, and the 70 percent whose views differ from the president’s have no reason to respect him. That is why he is being ridiculed and reviled.

I could go on. A president still harping on a coalition government, apparently indifferent to people’s trepidation over taxes and unemployment; a president who dismisses calls for an economic recovery as "demagoguery"; a president who, referring to attempts to topple a statue of U.S. general Douglas MacArthur in Incheon comments, "History, bad or good, is history"; Cabinet ministers who slander citizens as "speculators" while they themselves speculate on real estate; ruling-party lawmakers who bash Seoul National University, the country's leading higher seat of learning; public broadcasting networks that do not cover live the opening of the reclaimed Cheonggye Stream in Seoul, one of the most remarkable achievements today, perhaps for fear of playing up the opposition Seoul mayor; a fearless administration that saw its national debt double in the two years since it assumed power; a society where citizens are chastised as collaborators just because they worked in public jobs during Japanese colonial rule, while
vicious stooges of Japanese imperialism who tortured patriotic citizens are let off the hook; and opposition parties who, despite such dire problems, get caught up in the nomination of candidates out of lust for future power -- In a sense, it may be a natural consequence that a desperate public resorts to ridicule and abuse.


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