[EDITORIALS]The Blue House on the Attack
The Blue House has criticized the National Assembly speech by the opposition party's leader point by point. It is unprecedented and puzzling that the presidential office responded with a barrage of blatant attacks. The general public has been disillusioned after the endless showdowns between the ruling party and the opposition. Now that the Blue House has jumped into the battle with rolled-up sleeves, the public feels more nervous.
In a briefing for journalists on Wednesday, Park Joon-young, the Blue House spokesman, opened fire by saying, "Almost nothing in Grand National Party President Lee Hoi-chang's address was based on the truth. He distorted everything and his speech was filled with false arguments."
Mr. Park found fault with Mr. Lee's statement that President Kim said there would be no more war on the Korean Peninsula after last year's inter-Korean summit talks. Mr. Park said, "He twisted the president's words. The president meant that South Koreans should be determined not to permit another war." He went on to say, "Not to mention his qualities, we cannot help wondering whether he is a sensible man when he uses falsehood in arguments." Pointing out a mistake is an acceptable act of defense, but Mr. Park's expression was too harsh and the phrases he used remained at the level of nit-picking. Especially when we reach the point where Mr. Park described Mr. Lee as a person who "deludes the world and deceives the people" and "shameless," we cannot help but wonder if they are suitable to describe the head of the opposition. Mr. Park refuted Mr. Lee's remark that what the Korean people built for decades has been crumbling for the past three years. He launched a counterattack: "The nation has fallen because the Grand National Party mismanaged national affairs when it was in power. The GNP diverted the spy agency's budget into elections, which led to festering sores and the ruin of the nation." He then asked, "When Mr. Lee says to put the people first, does he mean to brush aside the past, while maintaining corrupt collusion between politics and business?" He also said, "It was the GNP that first promoted medical reform."
The Blue House spokesman is free to criticize what the head of the opposition says. However, when criticism goes beyond proper levels of political comment, the public is concerned about the chill which will descend on the political scene.
Of course, the head of the opposition is not immune; he should not criticize the government irresponsibly. But his critical remarks on economic missteps and the failure of medical reform were not unusual for the head of the opposition. It is hard to understand why the Blue House came forward to blame the opposition for the current economic downturn.
We wonder if the Blue House's touchy response reflected President Kim's feelings. If so, it exposes a narrow-mindedness that cannot tolerate routine criticism from the opposition and problems in the system where his displeasure is displayed without being filtered by his aides. For smooth political operations, the Blue House should refrain from coming to the foreground in a battle with the opposition. When it does, the room for reconciliation shrinks and the burden on the president grows as well. Such attacks may give the impression that the president is more interested in a squabble with the opposition than national affairs. This is the time for the ruling party and the opposition to join forces to tackle the economic crisis. Now is the time to reconcile and cooperate with a generous frame of mind.