Go to contents

[Opinion] Roh’s Internal Illness

Posted July. 06, 2006 03:00,   


“Sokbyeong” or inner illness has various meanings. It means illnesses inside our bodies, stomach aches, or hurt feelings. In many cases, it means seriously hurt feelings resulting from anger or resentment. There are many expressions that describe inner illness in Korea such as sogari, gasumari, and hwabyeong. The symptoms come mainly from the mindset. In order to treat it, Chinese medicine focuses on mind control rather than on medication. Lee Oyoung, in his book “In Soil and Wind-This is Korea,” wrote, “The Korean language is better developed in emotion rather than in logic. Therefore, Korean people are poetic, and there are indeed numerous expressions to describe inner illness.”

At the Cabinet meeting held the day before yesterday, President Roh Moo-hyun said with a sigh, “I came down with inner illness,” making the ministers feel uneasy. He added, “Until my term is over, this type of illness will continue.” The most convincing interpretation of his remarks is that he is mindful of the “lame duck” phenomenon when he made the remarks. President Roh must have felt uneasy to know that many ministers sent vice-ministers by proxy to the last Cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook.

Roh revealed his uneasy feeling on many occasions. At a meeting with leaders of the ruling and opposition parties on April 18, when discussing economic issues, he said, “I don’t sleep well because of worries.” Three days later, he told reporters, “I feel frustrated since things are not going as planned. I feel anxious and restless.” At the National Unification Advisory Council on May 3, he said that there are sleepless nights in Cheong Wa Dae. He must have felt the grave responsibility of governing a nation. However, just because the people worry about an anxious president does not mean problems solve themselves.

Inner illness may have an upside. In an attempt to eradicate it, which is similar to stress, we can make efforts in a positive manner and seize the opportunity to turn the tables, say experts. In a radio interview with KBS, Cheong Un-chan, president of Seoul National University, said, “The local elections of May 31 is a call for action from the public who wants changes,” indirectly suggesting what President Roh needs to do. The public is suffering from problems of state affairs as much as the president is.

Yook Jeong-soo, Editorial Writer, sooya@donga.com