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President Roh Disappointed His People

Posted July. 02, 2003 21:30,   


“The presidential election last December was a victory of the `386 generation` (those who are in their 30s, went to college during the 1980s, and were born in the 1960s), suggesting an end to a retrogressive Korean society and an emergence of fresh political leaders. But the `happy` times lasted just for the winter. President Roh Moo-hyun disappointed everybody.”

The French daily newspaper Le Figaro spared its three-page international section of the two Koreas for another article on President Roh, titled `People in Seoul are making an intense protest to their president.`

The newspaper reported on the North Korea`s nuclear and refuge issues and the president`s recent conditions in a dilemma. It also introduced photos of demonstrations in Seoul and said “A series of strikes and demonstrations give a signal of an end to the happy times for the new president.” The followings are the summary of the article.

“I can`t believe that I voted for Roh Moo-hyun. Since he took office, he has been doing exactly the opposite of what he had pledged. If I knew this then, I would have given up my vote,” said a student of the Department of Politics at Seoul National University, the nation`s most prestigious university.

The daily newspapers of the newsstand in front of him relentlessly criticize the president. In a rare case, a president of a nation has come under fire.

Mr. Roh is now blamed for his political helplessness. The former progressive human-rights lawyer was backed by trade unions. From a month ago, he has attempted to ease the social unrest by making concessions to them. Public opinions, however, accuse him of having made too many concessions, thereby allowing the unions to increase their demands.

President Roh sometimes appears to be unbelievably naïve in public. To the surprise of the public, he even expressed helplessness in dealing with the pressures of his office before the TV cameras at the end of May. “I can sense weakness on the inexperienced president,” said a former journalist. “I am very disappointed with the president, too. He vowed changes in our society, but he has changed nothing,” said Chang Ki-Pyo, a long-time acquaintance of Mr. Roh and a historical activist of the nation`s social movement in the 1980s.

Jei-Gyoon Park phark@donga.com