By Oh Young-jin
Figure skater Kim Yu-na, and the leftist Unified Progressive Party leader Lee Jung-hee and Kim Chan-kyung, chairman of the suspended Mirae Savings Bank, are not in any way connected with each other.
They happen to be grouped for my column I write about three newsmakers I pick for the week — my ‘copout’ column for the week when I don’t have a definite subject to write about.
Still, sometimes, this copout column turns out to be better than one that I think is well-thought in advance and I have a conviction about.
This is because public writing like a column, opinion piece and even an article doesn’t belong to the writers as soon as they are published with the ownership transferring to the readers. My hat is off to you, readers, and I pledge my allegiance and promise to serve you, my masters, to the best of my ability.
Enough of my shenanigans!
About Kim Yu-na, our Vancouver Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater, I don’t want to say, “I told you so.”
After our national heroine beat her Japanese competitors and stood atop the podium in the Canadian city in 2010, there were rumors that she wanted to retire. At that time, I suggested in one of my columns that Yu-na should be given a long vacation so she could do what she had been deprived of to be the world champion ― leading a normal life.
Although I didn’t say it out loud at that time, I was concerned about the over-commercialization of her status as a national figure, appearing a dozen television commercials simultaneously, ranging from bottled water, air conditioner, milk and refrigerator to sanitary pad and the like.
There have been few detractors about Yu-na and whatever she does.
But she has obviously overstepped the boundary when she appears in Hite’s Max beer commercial.
An organization of psychiatrists recommended that she stop plugging for an alcoholic beverage because she has an enormous influence on young people. Interestingly enough, the admonition comes at a time when Yu-na’s popularity is on the wane.
Of course, a check at blogs shows her supporters outnumber critics, some saying that she is 23 year olds and can do whatever she wants as long as it is not illegal. What a youthful thought!
As a matter of fact, one editor at our newsroom reminded us that we are living in a capitalist world so there is nothing wrong with any endeavor to cash in on it, a subliminal message being “You don’t have her talent and are envious of her commercial success so shut up.”
I admit that it may be partially true but, at a deeper level, it is more than that.
First, Yu-na has reached so high in social status, requiring her to stick to noblesse oblige. Simply donating money or performing pro bono for a cause is not good enough. She is a member of the leaders’ group, helping set up and maintain a code of conduct for the rest of society.
Of course, she may not feel obliged by it and can’t be held responsible, if she behaves contrary to social expectations. Maybe, the biggest punishment would be a public scolding that is nonbinding.
So when I plead her to yank herself out of that beer commercial, the power of my plea comes from the fact that she is a role model for many young people and should determine by her good sense whether that commercial serves any good purpose.
For Lee June-hee, leader of the leftist Unified Progressive Party, it is also time to make her mind up.
Treating her and her party in a way different from other bigger parties may be unfair and the 43-year-old may have her excuse for irregularities prevalent in the management of her party. But the pursuit of justice is the lifeblood of the progressives and, when they lose it, it signifies that it is no different from other big parties. Of course, it is understandable that the progressives have been pushed to the margin of the political map and have been spared from scrutiny but now it has at least 12 seats won from the April 11 parliamentary elections, assuming an important “casting-vote” role in a parliament that is tightly contested by two big parties.
If this is the case, the progressives may start from scratch but any fresh start should be conditioned on Lee’s renunciation of vested rights. So far, she has resisted calls for the revamping of her party and refused to step down, making the situation resemble an amateurish, no-compromise power struggle in ideological warfare that swept colleges and universities during the 1980s and 1990s. Get real and notice that communism has been dead for 30 years.
About Kim Chan-kyung, chairman of Mirae Savings Bank, one of four whose operations were recently suspended in the third-stage cleanup of the secondary banking sector, I don’t even know how to begin. He has been a pathological liar and shows characteristics that are found with a type of people who do things that one can’t even imagine doing because they believe they have nothing to lose. Before his bank was suspended, he was caught in a boat while trying to smuggle himself into China with 20 billion won in customers’ money.
Thirty years ago, he pretended to be a Seoul National University student, attended classes and led an extra-curricular activity club before his cover was blown after having himself photographed for a graduation album.
Kim also well reflects two faces of a society we live in ― sucking up to those who have money and power and despising those who don’t.
Despite my earlier disclaimer for any association among the three, I feel tempted to put them together in the same room and see how they would behave. Would they look as disconnected as I would like to believe? It’s only imagination.