Go to contents

[Op-Ed] Free Discussion or Unilateral Lecture?

Posted July. 04, 2009 10:02,   


“Gandamhoe” in Korean means an informal gathering for discussion. To accurately reflect the purpose of such a meeting, the National Institute of the Korean Language has proposed a change to “Jeongdamhoe,” or a “discussion meeting.” Members of the Cabinet and high-ranking officials favor such gatherings because they can engage in discussion freely under a friendly environment. Many use such meetings, however, to unilaterally assert their opinions or propagandistic purposes.

The late former President Roh Moo-hyun preferred forums to informal discussions. While he served as maritime affairs and fisheries minister, civic groups in Busan requested a discussion on the transfer of the ministry office to Busan. Fully aware of the advantages and disadvantages of such meetings and the nature of media, Roh proposed a TV forum. He later confessed that he rejected the discussion meeting because the media would report only that civic groups called in the minister to urge the ministry to relocate.

On June 7, 1993, former Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee issued in Frankfurt, Germany, his famous “new management declaration,” urging changes in everything of his staff except wives and children. He later held through Aug. 4 that year overseas discussions in Britain and Japan with the group’s presidents and executives. Through such meetings calling for a “long march toward new management,” Chairman Lee talked with Samsung presidents for 800 hours and 1,800 executives for 350 hours.

Unlike Lee’s such open discussions, the meeting on Jeju Island Thursday with Education, Science and Technology Minister Ahn Byong-man and 165 university presidents is said to have been nothing more than a lecture by Ahn. Due to his speech of more than an hour, he could take only three questions. Participants later questioned the wisdom of the meeting because Ahn deliberately rambled on and ignored strident comments made by university presidents. In a word, 165 university presidents went all the way to Jeju to attend the minister’s lecture, though he reportedly received applause when announcing the government’s plan to expand support for public universities. Genuine communication and dialogue will not happen as long as government officials refuse to listen to opinions other than their own.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-taek (maypole@donga.com)