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[Opinion] Eloquent-Speaking President

Posted March. 10, 2003 22:18,   


The news about a debate between President Roh and junior-level prosecutors reminded me of former French president Francois Mitterand. I was in Paris when President Mitterand appeared in an open TV debate in 1992. He was well known for his eloquent speech. Even his political opponents praised that his speech could become a great piece of writing. President Roh is also known for his eloquence in speech. Apart from the fact that he expressed unpleasantness when a prosecutor during the debate said that `being an eloquent speaker, we would like you to listen to us instead of dissuading us,` he must be a gifted politician who knows how to think clearly and express himself in a convincing manner. If they had not been eloquent speakers, then, Mitterand and Roh would have appeared on an open TV debate?

President Mitterand proposed an open debate ahead of a referendum on ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, which would decide the launch of a united Europe. The debate was held at a grand hall of the prestigious Sorbonne University. During the first-round debate, 14 people randomly selected to represent the public had heated discussions with the president. Then three renowned journalists appeared for second-round discussions. During the final third round, lawmaker Philip Segang, who was at the forefront of the opposition campaign, stood face-to-face with Mitterand. It was an exciting and tense three-hour drama led by then 75-year-old president facing 18 critics.

Koreans, like French people at that time, watched the debate expecting intense tit-for-tats between President Roh and junior prosecutors. We expected the debate to be a testament to the democratic system of the country. We, however, felt like walking on the ice throughout the debate. There were mixed reactions from the public as well as from the ruling and opposition parties. There were too many factors to be taken into account, unlike the French debate. The French debate was about whether to pass the Maastricht Treaty or not, but ours was about reform of the prosecutors` office. Two hours was too short to reach any conclusion. The way participants at the debate sat also made it difficult to promote spontaneous discussions.

In France, it was a victory for Mitterand. The public, who were evenly divided into pros and cons at the time of TV debate, gave the go-ahead to the ratification of the treaty two weeks later, helping Mitterand with his campaign for united Europe. And we wonder what it would be like for President Roh. We wish things to go well given his effort to make a change. “There were remarks I could never imagine, but I will not take an issue with those remarks,” President Roh said after the debate. We wish that the concern about the young prosecutors who made bold remarks attacking the president will turn out to be groundless.