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[Opinion] Problem lies with president

Posted December. 06, 2000 14:31,   


When I was an elementary student, my grandfather, who resembled the then President Lee Seung-Man, had a nickname, "Dr. Lee." Being extremely proud of my grandfather, the news of President Lee Seung-Man's leaving office was a great shock. Hoping to know the reason, I asked all the people I knew.

The answers given me by the grownups were all the same. While the then-Vice-president Lee Ki-Boong was busily off on shady business, President Lee was kept in the dark. Being young at the time, I could not understand. I would ask, "Didn't the president read the newspaper?" It took quite a while for me to realize what the grownups were trying to say.

I was reminded of my childhood days due to the similarity of what I hear today to the days of old. "The President is doing well, but there isn't any good support team." "The communication line to the president seems clogged, and he does not fully understand the public."

As if President Kim only now realized the gravity of the situation, he is said to be busily seeking public opinion information. He met with the special report committee for the ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) president following his luncheon with the highest-ranking members of the MDP. He is said to have scheduled a meeting with the four party big coats. As I read such reports, my childhood question once again arose in my mind, "Doesn't the president have the newspaper delivered to his breakfast table?¡±

Is there such a serious clog in the communication line to the president that without meetings with such party officials, he now has understanding of public opinion? Although President Kim had always reshuffled the Cabinet when public opinion clamored, nothing has really changed much. Once again he might replace certain figures and hope for a cleanup of the party; it might become another easygoing non-achiever. Without first pinpointing the exact nature of the communication breakdown and repairing it, there doesn't seem to be much hope for change during the term left to him.

The four elements of successful communication are the speaker, the listener, the content and the mode of transmission. The content of the communication might vary depending on the speaker. The code of silence concerning what transpired in the meeting with the highest-ranking party officials shows the importance of whose voice is heard. However, it does not appear as though the issue in this case is the content or the deliverer. The special report committee revealed that it had boldly delivered public opinion to the president and that the president had remarked that he was fully aware of it through the newspapers.

Then, is the problem with the mode of transmission? The current administration, before its rise to office, pointed to the inadequate transmission of the opposing public opinions to the then-president as the cause for the so-called "IMF economic crisis." The administration also proposed to establish a sort of a "people's stand" at Chong Wa Dae where the criticism of the president could be freely voiced, much similar to what was established during the Chosun Dynasty. If such a system had been established, could the current crisis have been avoided?

We live in an information society. Without such a ¡°people's stand,¡± without meeting with various officials, the president has means open and available to him to know all. Then, what seems to be the problem? The speaker, the message, the mode of transmission seems in working order. If such, the conclusion must necessarily be that the problem lies with the listener. In fact, the listener does have the prerogative to choose from whom and what he will hear.

According to what has been revealed during the meeting with the special report committee, President Kim was under the impression that the media were exaggerating the public opinion crisis and that for effective reform such discontent among the people was necessary to a degree. In hindsight, he had not come to listen to the message delivered, but to request in a rebuking tone to bear and stand firm.

As an adult, I have no desire to offer such pitiable excuses to the young children that the communication line is as clogged as I was told when I was young. The crisis faced by President Kim is caused by none other than the lack of leadership by the president himself. A true leader knows how to foster leadership in others. The very secret to being a successful leader is to hand responsibilities over to someone below. No matter how intelligent the brain might be, it can't do the work that the hands could do. It is the job of the leader to choose an able person to fully exercise his potential while the leaders acts as the wind-breaker.

It is time for President Kim to review and rethink his leadership style of having each individual personnel under his direct control and consider the personnel management fostering and promoting leadership of those with potential.

King Sejong was able to become such great and wise king because of such servants as Hwang-Hui Maeng Sah-Sung. It is regrettable that only the president seems blind to the fact that even Zhuge Kongming, a master tactician and advisor to Liu Bei, the ruler of the Chinese Shu Kingdom, was an ineffective being when alone.

Cho Ki-Sook, professor of Political Science at Ewha Womans University International Graduate School