The recent whistle-blowing by an ex-bureaucrat on the alleged illegal activities of the government has raised anew a long-asked question about the quality of the people's representatives, namely lawmakers.
As reported extensively by all media outlets, an outspoken female lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party ignited the controversy by defaming the 32-year-old "deep throat" who had made the accusations against the presidential office and the Ministry of Economy and Finance where he had worked until recently.
For most people, when they think about politicians or to be more precise, lawmakers, such negative words as corruption, partisan strife and personal interest come quickly to mind.
Our elected politicians are notorious for their all or nothing struggle to further their own and their parties' interests without paying heed to the stark reality that we face every day.
It is like preaching to the wind to tell them to think about public happiness and the national interest first.
The case of Shin Jae-min, the whistleblower, clearly testifies to the sad reality that our legislators can do nothing but betray the people's expectations in search of their own political gain when the nation faces a heap of social and economic difficulties.
In particular, many lawmakers have made themselves targets of public criticism and furor by making absurd and nonsensical remarks about the latest issues, as female lawmaker Rep. Sohn Hye-won of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) has stubbornly done.
Rep. Sohn, elected in the Mapo constituency of Seoul, surprised even her party members as well as the people by personally insulting Shin in a Facebook post, claiming that he made his claims to make money that he needed urgently.
The former outstanding expert in brand making and publicity as a famous copy writer continued to defame the former bureaucrat as she wrote on the SNS that "he is shameless as he pretends to be a righteous person with an innocent look (on YouTube), using his bad brain."
After Shin, apparently depressed by the attacks from Sohn and her party, went missing after leaving a suicide note a week ago, she immediately deleted the post. But the former bureaucrat who resigned in July abruptly became a target again. After he was found by police in a Seoul motel with marks around his neck, she loaded an article written by a professor on her SNS platform that spread ungrounded rumors about (his) organization; the act of a bully.
This was not the first time that Sohn has caused public outrage with her nonsensical remarks. During a parliamentary hearing in October, Rep. Sohn, claiming she was a baseball expert, made little of the national team's victory in the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games ― eventually proving her poor knowledge of the sport.
Questioning the national team coach, Sun Dong-yol, she surprised the people by saying, "Everybody thinks winning (the gold medal) is not that difficult," pressing the legendary pitcher-turned-coach to either apologize or resign.
One month later in November, Sun voluntarily resigned, reportedly saying that Rep. Sohn's remarks were helpful to him making up his mind (to quit the job). She must be ignorant that the players and coaching staff endured sweat and tears to win the championship.
She must understand why so many people are sending "18" won (less than $2 cents) to her account. Koreans know what this act means, while most foreigners do not. The number 18 is pronounced "sippal," indicating "fxxxxxx" in English.
Sohn defamed not only Shin, but the residents of her constituency who elected her to the National Assembly. It's Sohn, not Sun, who should have resigned.
Her behavior reminds me of the phrases about politicians in the three-act play "Major Barbara" by George Bernard Shaw that premiered in 1905."He (she) knows nothing; and he (she) thinks he (she) knows everything. That points clearly to a political career."
I am convinced that she acted as she did apparently in order to curry favor with party leaders by attacking the whistleblower in defense of the presidential office.
We know she is not the sole lawmaker of this kind.
The late French President Georges Pompidou said a year before his death: "A statesman is a politician who places himself at the service of the nation. A politician is a statesman who places the nation at his service."
A statesman exercises political leadership wisely and without narrow partisanship. A politician, however, is primarily interested in political office from selfish or other narrow interests. Rep. Sohn is a typical politician of this sort.
It is the misfortune of the Korean people today that we have no true statesmen, only politicians. Little has changed in the political world and there are no positive signs in the near future.
On this occasion, I hope that our lawmakers will remember what they say in their oath upon taking office: "I will carry out the duty of National Assembly representative faithfully in accordance with my conscience, placing top priority on the promotion of the people's happiness and interests and the national interests."
And finally it's the job and responsibility of our voters to elect lawmakers of "good quality."
Park Moo-jong (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a standing adviser of The Korea Times. He served as the president-publisher of the nation's first English daily newspaper from 2004 to 2014 after working as a reporter since 1974.