Behind the Wheel : Has Roh's Journey from the Barricades to the Blue House Prepared Him to Lead South Korea?

By Wehrfritz, George; Lee, B. J. | Newsweek International, March 3, 2003 | Go to article overview

Behind the Wheel : Has Roh's Journey from the Barricades to the Blue House Prepared Him to Lead South Korea?


Wehrfritz, George, Lee, B. J., Newsweek International


The Daewoo sedan skirted police patrols in the dead of night. At the wheel, human-rights lawyer Roh Moo Hyun navigated past various protest sites scattered across Pusan, South Korea's main port city. It was 1987. Roh's passenger, a former client and student activist named Lee Ho Chul, had already been jailed--and tortured--for antigovernment activities. Hidden in the Daewoo's trunk: thousands of contraband leaflets demanding that strongman Chun Doo Hwan, a hard-line general who seized power in 1980, step down and permit democratic elections. Their nerves were stretched taut. "If caught, we would have been arrested," says Lee.

Like many in his generation, Roh is a veteran of political struggle. Yet until very recently, the democracy he strove to create served him poorly. Over the last 12 years he has lost four of the six elections he's entered. Even a year ago he was not widely recognized as a rising star in South Korean politics. Then, unexpectedly, the 56-year-old high-school graduate swept the ruling Millennium Democratic Party's primary and, buoyed by Internet-savvy baby boom-ers born after the Korean War, defeated his conservative opponent to claim victory in last December's presidential election. On Feb. 25, he will succeed Kim Dae Jung to become his country's ninth president in a gala Inaugural marking a generational change in South Korean politics.

Roh enters the Blue House with an ambitious domestic agenda. But those plans are overshadowed by a single explosive issue: the North Korean nuclear crisis, which threatens to define, even consume, his presidency. Pyongyang's belligerence has undermined Roh's case for continued inter-Korean engagement and strained Seoul's all-important alliance with Washington. In Seoul for the Inaugural, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will seek Roh's help in cooling tensions with the North (the latest shot being a threat to abandon the armistice that ended the Korean War) before any U.S.-led attack on Iraq provokes an even more dramatic gesture.

Intelligence experts fear strongman Kim Jong Il could lash out with a missile test, a declaration of nuclear statehood, or even an underground A- bomb blast. To date, China and Russia have done little to counter Kim's belligerence. And Roh's offer to mediate doesn't sit well in either Washington or Pyongyang; the regime continues to demand "knee-to-knee" talks with the Americans--an end game that makes the Bushies cringe. Unless something changes, Roh could become a bystander in a showdown fought within artillery range of the Blue House.

As a candidate, Roh criticized U.S. President George W. Bush's tough approach to North Korea and actively courted the anti-American student vote. But in a NEWSWEEK interview last week, he sounded like a man looking to temper his message. "Both in Korea and the United States, there are people who are excessive, even extreme," he said. At one point he referred to "unilateralist characteristics" in U.S. foreign policy, but when asked to elaborate he leaned back in his chair and took a long pause. "Let's not go too deep into this," he said finally. "You have some ideas, and I don't think it would be good form to confirm them." A moment later he added: "I have some dissatisfaction with my wife, whom I love very much."

The familial metaphors are a contrivance, to be sure. But Roh is learning to better navigate the minefield of international diplomacy. That education can't come too fast for a man recently described by one senior U.S. diplomat in Seoul as less experienced diplomatically than any incoming leader he had ever encountered. Immediately after the election Roh clumsily raised the possibility of U.S. troop withdrawals from South Korea, where some 37,000 American soldiers now serve. Just a few weeks ago an envoy he dispatched to meet senior Bush administration officials in Washington stunned his hosts by asserting that many of his countrymen would rather see North Korea develop nuclear weapons than collapse. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Behind the Wheel : Has Roh's Journey from the Barricades to the Blue House Prepared Him to Lead South Korea?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.