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[Opinion] President Roh’s Memorandum

Posted December. 13, 2005 07:21,   


A memorandum is a record which is kept at spare moments to prepare for one`s forgetfulness. Publishers distinguish memoirs from memorandums by how complete they are: a memorandum is regarded as writing that has yet to be fleshed out. However, both depend on truth.

A few years back, after an ex-president published his memoirs, many pointed out that the author indulged in too much self-praise and shifted the responsibility for his mistakes onto his political rivals. A senior politician severely criticized the book by commenting, "For every truth, there were nine lies."

Memoirs are popular among politicians. People who enjoyed great political influence are more tempted to publish them. A publisher`s knack for business also plays as a factor. Recently, Park Cheol-eon, the former minister for political affairs during the Roh Tae-woo administration, published a book containing behind-the-scenes stories of South-North contact and the merger of three political parties at the time. The book stirred a debate over its truthfulness. As this case illustrates, it is hard to obtain objectivity when the account is coming from the person concerned.

Lee Jin, who worked for two years as an administrative officer at an office affiliated with Cheong Wa Dae, published a book titled: The Participatory Government, Its First-Half Memorandum.

Her book contains anecdotes such as the incident that took place right after the 2002 presidential election when President Roh’s wish to clear off irregularities concerning his political funds was scattered due to his advisors` opposition, where he scolded his relatives for getting involved in wrongdoing, and the president`s state of mind before and after the impeachment in spring 2004. The author said, "With my book, I am laying down a bridge between the island of President Roh and the land of citizens.”

However, the plot of the book is the humane facade of Roh, who acts with common sense and conscience and tries not to be authoritative. This gives an impression that the book is another piece of praise for the president for political use. A true memoir of the president should be written long after he retires and should contain anecdotes as they are. A memoir is valuable when it can be a lesson for a generation by presenting an honest record of mistakes and shameful deeds as well as achievements.

This memorandum was said to have been read by the president and the secretarial staff of the president before it was published. From the beginning, it was a promotional item.

Editorial Writer, Song Young-eon, youngeon@donga.com