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[Opinion] Living Hero

Posted November. 10, 2007 07:50,   


In a country that has endured Japanese occupation, the fratricidal war, rapid economic development, and military dictatorships, writing biographies of the famous that resonate with people from all walks of life is not an easy task. If he or she is alive, it’s all the more difficult. However, it is not the case with Park Tae-jun (80), the honorary chairman of POSCO. Scholars and writers are competing to publish biographies of him. A Korean-American professor of business administration was the first to release a book about Park in 1997. Subsequently, novelist Lee Dae-hwan wrote “The World’s Best Steel Man” in 2004. And Cho Jeong-rae, the author of the famous historical epic titled “The Taebaek Mountains,” has recently published a biography of Park.

At Park’s 80th birthday party on Thursday, Cho said, “Though he is a living figure, I wrote his biography, putting him in the same ranks as Ahn Jung-geun, Han Yong-un, Kim Gu, and Shin Chae-ho. His life has been flawless, and I was so sure that it would be so afterward if he should not have an affair (laughing).” The fact that Cho is classified as a progressive writer means that Park is highly regarded both from the conservative and the progressive. Presidential candidates from the ruling and the opposition parties also attended his birthday party and praised him for showing the greatest spirit of a businessman.

Though POSCO’s beginning was humble, its end was great. Doing the will of then Korean President Park Jung-hee, the company started its operation with a staff of 39 in April 1968, and ended up being one of the world’s best companies. He is so well-regarded overseas as well that Deng Xiaoping, China`s paramount leader, was passionate for him and said, “He is the man I want to import the most.” Park, who was born in the colonial era and experienced war and poverty, has had three careers as a military officer, businessman, and politician. Though engaging in politics left him only with humiliation, his legacy as the greatest steel man has remained unscathed.

Since the nation started economic development in the 1960s, many entrepreneurs have devoted their whole energy for the economy, making the nation have world’s 11th largest economy. “Someone says economic recovery is a top priority, but if the foundations of the nation are weak, the economy cannot be sound,” said one presidential candidate. However, a weak economy cannot guarantee national security. It is my sincere hope that those who aspire to be a national leader would learn a lesson from the life of the living hero about what is a genuine path to take as a leader, rather than resorting to rhetoric.

Editorial Writer Heo Mun-myeong, angelhuh@donga.com