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[Editorial] President’s Contemporary Spirit Not Linked to Contemporaries

[Editorial] President’s Contemporary Spirit Not Linked to Contemporaries

Posted October. 18, 2005 06:51,   


When President Roh Moo-hyun was elected president in 2002, he said, “I was chosen not because I am smart, but because I know something that my contemporaries are looking for.”

That “something,” he argued, was the abolition of authoritarianism. The Roh administration, as a result, has kept its distance from authoritarian rule, which is one of the achievements of the current government.

To advocate Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae’s ordering the prosecution to investigate a recent political case provoked by Professor Kang Jeong-koo’s pro-North Korean remarks without detaining Kang, Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs Moon Jae-in said that “the prosecution must seek contemporary spirit.” However, this case is quite different because the prosecution’s decision to arrest Kang has nothing to do with authoritarian power. Instead, this incident shows how subordinated agencies like the prosecution are tamed by upper agencies like the Ministry of Justice.

According to a survey conducted by a politically neutral portal site, 70 percent of questioned internet users answered that Justice Minister Chun’s order was not proper. The Korean Society Opinion Institute’s recent survey also revealed that the 46 percent of questioned people favored Kang’s arrest and 37 percent opposed it. This is a significant result even though it is dangerous to solely rely on such surveys. In that case, we can assume that what was argued as contemporary spirit is just being consistent with ways that President Roh and his core assistants are pursuing. The “abolition of authoritarian power,” that has been championed by President Roh until now seems to have been transformed into the “establishment of new control.”

In fact, President Roh was under attack in 2003 because he filled his new cabinet with figures that have the same ideological disposition with him. Responding to such criticism, Roh said that, “I picked up the people in accordance with principles that contemporaries are seeking.” Regarding this, the current presidential press secretary Cho Ki-sook (then professor of Ewha Woman’s University) said that, “I can’t agree with him” at one of the newspapers at that time. President Roh has provoked unnecessary debates and thus, wasted nation’s energy by pushing ahead with proposals that were only supported by his assistants. The attempts to the abolition of National Security Law and the alliance with opposition party can be the best example. His initiative for alliance was only supported by 30 to 40 percent of the nations.

Given the fact that president has a power to appoint executive prosecutors, including the prosecutor general, the measure that citizens expect the government to take is not control of the prosecution, but distance from the prosecution for its political autonomy. This is the reason why prosecution reform has to be watched by people, not be used as a tool for “taming the prosecution.”

Leaving beyond unpleasant memories of conflicts that were produced through rapid industrialization and democratization, Koreans should move forward to live in a more advanced country. This is the very essence of contemporary spirit. It is completely absurd to say that provoking ideological conflicts and polarization is what contemporaries want. The approval rate of the president that has fallen to around 20 percent is also linked to Roh’s adherence to self-justified preferences.