[NOTEBOOK]Ms. Park undeterred by probeIt was Sept. 14, 1974. President Park Chung Hee sat quietly after his breakfast for a while and burst into tears suddenly before his daughter, Geun-hye.
“I won’t be able to live without you. Your mother had given you to me, maybe because she knew that she would die so soon,” the president said. “Your mother was a great person. We have talked about so many things, but she had never said a word about fulfilling desires such as getting rich.”
Park Geun-hye, the chairwoman of the Grand National Party, recalls that moment as the day when the president could no longer hold back his grief over Yook Young-soo, who had been killed a month earlier after being shot by Moon Se-kwang, an assassin who was aiming at the president, at a Liberation Day celebration.
At that moment, Ms. Park decided that she would fill the empty place of her mother as the first lady. On Nov. 10, 1974, Ms. Park wrote in her diary, “My most important responsibility to my father, and to this nation, is to make sure my father will not be lonely. I will give up everything ― an ordinary life and my dream.”
Ms. Park was 22 at the time, and she dreamed of becoming a professor. After graduating from Sogang University with a degree in electronics engineering she left for France to continue her studies. There she heard about the news of her mother’s death. After that, Ms. Park gave up on her dream.
“At that time, I lived with a belief and responsibility that completing my mother’s role would make her life an honorable one. I spent my days living according to the saying that the busy bee has no time for grief,” Ms. Park told a journalist.
She said she had desired an ordinary life, but her fate did not allow that. After losing her father in 1979 in another assassination, she had to live a life for her father as well. She has had to follow her father’s path ever since then.
Her journals in the 1980s and 1990s reveal her agony at that time.
“When I tried my best to clear the distorted views about my father, another distortion begins. My fate has driven me into the path I have to take, whether I want it or not, without giving me a choice,” she wrote on Feb. 7, 1990.
“There are always storms, thunder, rain and wind, making me feel insecure. I think maybe that it is my fate that I can never feel at ease,” she wrote on Nov. 29, 1989.
The storm is still in her life, and this time, the storm appears to be even stronger than those she had to face in the 1980s and 1990s. There is no way of knowing to what extent the problems of the “Park Chung Hee era” will be scrutinized. When asked about that, Ms. Park said, “[The governing Uri Party] is probably trying to make me an excellent sword.”
If she becomes an excellent sword, she does not have to fear any other blades. The problem is whether she can be an excellent sword. An excellent sword is different from all other blades. She should have a unique forte.
She saved the Grand National Party during last year’s legislative elections, but that is not enough. At the time, she proved that she was a strong enough card to appeal to the supporters of the Grand National Party. But it is time for her to prove that she can appeal to the majority of this nation’s citizens.
Ms. Park is focusing on listening to people’s problems in their daily lives. She should show that she is the best one in that field by putting forth consistent efforts to resolve their issues. When she succeeds in creating her image as a guardian of people’s livelihood, people will applaud.
Just because the governing party is trying to scrutinize the nation’s modern history, Ms. Park should not feel pained, as she has in the past. If she is seen as “an excellent sword” by the nation’s citizens, her father’s shortcomings cannot keep her from becoming a great leader.
If the Uri Party tries to politicize the investigations of Korea’s post-war past, the public will definitely see this. Ms. Park must not fear such a possibility. What she should pay attention to is the public’s opinion.
* The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Sang-il