Why Is Sports Better Than Politics?
By Oh Young-jin
Assistant Managing Editor
Politics and sports are comparable because both are based on competition and produce moments of human triumph that are so moving as to bring spectators to tears.
A recent series of events in the political arena, however, has been nothing less than a letdown. There is nothing human or triumphant about it.
The first case in point is newly-appointed Prime Minister Chung Un-chan versus Kim Jae-park, who has just left the LG Twins as head coach. The actions of the two in the face of criticism were different. That difference explains why sports are more popular than politics.
The 61-year-old economics professor at Seoul National University has had all his dirty laundry out in the open during a National Assembly hearing on his appointment. He has a large amount of money in his bank account he can't explain, and is accused of draft dodging, moonlighting for extra income and evading taxes.
Chung is a flip-flopper. He was known to be a progressive, being critical of the current conservative government. In the lead-up to the 2007 presidential election, he himself had considered joining the then-ruling progressive party's primaries.
In a not-so-grand transformation, he took up the current government's cause of scaling down Sejong City, the administrative capital, which was planned by the previous government and is under construction.
His appointment was approved by the ruling Grand National Party-controlled National Assembly.
``I will be a prime minister who will bring balance and unity to politics,'' he said with a smile on his face.
About 10 opposition lawmakers picketed in protest inside the National Assembly hall and their colleagues boycotted the vote on Chung's appointment. His appointment was met with public apathy. In other words, few cared.
In contrast, public outrage met former LG head coach Kim, who was engaged in what fans see as unsportsmanlike conduct during his final days with LG.
Kim is accused of keeping his top hitter, Park Yong-ta, on the bench during the last game of the regular pennant race, and ordering his pitchers to walk Park's competitor, Hong Sung-heon of the Lotte Giants, in four of his five at bats, thus depriving Hong of chances to improve his batting average. Park beat Hong by the difference of 0.002 to win the title of the highest batting average for the season.
The Internet is hot with criticism. Some call Kim's behavior a ``betrayal of trust.'' Others say that Park's title is a blemish on his career.
Kim was remorseful but stood by his decision, saying with a grim face that clinching the batting title does not come easily and he wanted to help Park capitalize on the precious chance. Kim left LG at the end of this year's regular season, although his departure had nothing to do with his controversial decision.
The bottom line is that one can get away with murder in politics, while sportsmen are expected to adhere to a certain set of standards. The fans voted with their feet.
In sports, you have to prove yourself to obtain bragging rights, while you can talk your way into political fame. A relevant case is Yang Yong-eun ― the Korean golfer who won this year's U.S. PGA Championship, beating Tiger Woods ― versus President Lee Myung-bak.
Yang showed nerves of steel when he putted for a birdie on the 18th hole of the final round after a brilliant shot onto the green.
In a post-match news conference, Yang explained his victory, sometimes cocky and sometimes modest.
In contrast, apparently the spin doctors for President Lee overdid it. One vernacular newspaper said that Lee and his entourage gave three cheers, chanting ``Mansei,'' or ``May the Nation Reign for 10,000 years,'' each time, during his trip back home from Pittsburgh after Korea was selected to host a G-20 meeting next year.
A senior presidential aide was quoted as saying, while suggesting the three cheers, ``Our ancestors were not even allowed into the 1907 global meeting in The Hague, the Netherlands. But we are now hosting the G-20 meeting.'' He was referring to the meeting to which King Gojong sent three secret envoys to inform the world of Japan's attempt to colonize Korea, who were denied access.
I am sure that President Lee wanted to keep this moment private, considering his presidency is still young and a lot more should be done during the remainder.
But this kind of insider account portrays his administration as being an immature government that over-relies on spin rather than substance. In fact, Korea has been tapped to host the G-20 meeting for some time and the Pittsburgh decision was seen as a mere confirmation of the arranged schedule.
It is a matter of course that this confirmation for Korea's hosting of the meeting of advanced nations and leading developing countries can't be underestimated, but the way it is plugged may run the risk of inviting criticism of self-indulgence, which is taken as no sign of virtue.
Politicians lament that nobody is paying attention to their trade but, if they try to emulate what sportsmen are doing, they have a chance of regaining their lost fan base.