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[Opinion] Culture-deficient Culture Ministry

Posted October. 27, 2008 09:10,   


Shame on the last parliamentary audit of the Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry! Swearing flared up throughout the session. Lawmaker Lee Jong-kul of the main opposition Democratic Party triggered the incident by saying, “Cabinet members and the guys waiting in line are the subordinates of [President Lee] Myung-bak. They are his henchmen.” Lee Jong-kul rudely addressed the president by his first name and branded as henchmen everyone who helped launch the Lee administration. Member of the ruling Grand National Party demanded an apology, and especially incensed was Culture Minister Yu In-chon, who called lawmaker Lee’s comments as an assault on personal integrity. Yu then chewed out camera crews who were busy shooting the scene.

Then the finger pointing started among the ruling and opposition parties and Minster Yu. Shame on all of them. In addition to the “henchmen” comment, lawmaker Lee insulted a ruling party member by addressing him as “Mr. Ahn” to hinder Ahn’s comments. Lee Jong-kul never used the honorary title “respected lawmaker,” which is an epithet attached to the names of National Assembly members. Deputy Culture Minister Shin Jae-min also showed disrespect by folding his arms while listening to lawmaker Lee’s questions. Everyone seemed unaware of the merit of praising others to get respect.

The word “henchman” carries a negative connotation. A real henchman would probably get angry if called by that name, so imagine how a minister or deputy minister would feel. How would Lee Jong-kul react if someone called him a henchman of former President Roh Moo-hyun? Minister Yu’s order that camera crews not film the scene also smells of indecency. Comments are being posted for and against Minister Yu on the Internet.

Words can deeply affect the heart of a person. Public figures like lawmakers and ministers must be aware of the constant public attention since they have to account for each and every word spoken. Furthermore, they can hugely influence the linguistic style of the people. If they do not bother to pay attention, public figures are better off throwing away their official titles and returning to private life.

Editorial Writer Yook Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)