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[Editorial] Roh’s World… and Korea’s

Posted September. 01, 2006 07:01,   


President Roh Moo-hyun apologized to the public for the recent arcade game scandal in a televised news conference on KBS yesterday. Though belated, it was the right thing to do so. Many expect unbiased investigations, now that the president said, “Gone are the days when Cheong Wa Dae gave guidelines to prosecutors on how to investigate specific cases.” He also covered many issues ranging from wartime control transfer, Korea-U.S. alliance, the national economy, to bread and butter issues. Still, what Koreans reconfirmed was the huge gap between him and themselves.

Roh said that he could not understand the strong opposition to the wartime command transfer, citing that his predecessors had long attempted to take over the control from the U.S., for which the media gave them huge credit. He explained that defense capability is the key to securing national sovereignty, comparing that the president, i.e. commander in chief cannot be recruited from other countries for the same reason. However, today’s security environment is totally different from then.

North Korea is developing missiles and nuclear weapons. Japan’s rapid military buildup is threatening the stability of the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia to the extent that it is anticipated to vie for hegemony with emerging superpower China. Meanwhile, the Korea-U.S. relationship has soured so much that it is said to be the worst in history. Against this background, any security related policy or initiative should be given much thought. There’s no need to rush referring to the past.

His overly optimistic view on the ROK-U.S. alliance also raised many eyebrows. While most Korea experts and officials in the U.S. have been issuing stern warnings against the bilateral relationship, they fall on Roh’s deaf ears. Even Bruce Cumings, left-wing professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, said that the alliance is damaged too much to be restored.

If President Roh thinks that way, how can he have a meaningful discussion with President Bush at the Korea-U.S. summit next month? Not only Koreans but also our neighbors in the region are paying close attention to the summit. If the two countries fail to solidify the alliance at the summit, though they are supposed to do so, we would face much more concerns. Moreover, the government should not fix the date, but rather leave room for negotiations regarding the wartime command transfer.

President Roh also said that the Korean economy is faring well though people’s living standards have not improved. He meant that the economy and people’s livelihoods are two different things. However, this is inconceivable. If the national economy does well, consumers will spend more, thus lead to more jobs, and eventually improve people’s lives. Korea has posted low growth rates for the three straight years that fall far short of annual global economic growth. All economic indices including industrial production, consumption, and leading economic indicators are far from optimistic according to government statistics. The president seems to believe that the economy is growing on the news of high stock prices and foreign reserves. I wonder if he is really mindful of his fellow Koreans.