[EDITORIALS]Mr. Lee departsPresident Roh Moo-hyun accepted Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan’s resignation. It was a natural decision in view of Mr. Lee’s recent behavior. Mr. Roh must name a successor as soon as possible and ease the angry public opinion to stabilize the nation.
Mr. Lee’s resignation makes us think about how a high-ranking public servant must behave. The immediate reason for Mr. Lee’s resignation was his golf game, but there are other reasons for the angry public opinion. No one can say that a prime minister should not play golf. Mr. Lee probably feels unfairly treated in that respect. But, there are other issues in Mr. Lee’s behavior that are unacceptable to the people.
First, Mr. Lee played golf at the wrong time. Although it was a national holiday, a railroad strike had been announced and that was a prelude to a nationwide traffic crisis. Furthermore, it was the anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement Day. Traveling all the way to Busan to play golf on that particular day was inappropriate for a senior public servant.
Second, Mr. Lee was arrogant. It was not the first time that he was criticized for inappropriate golfing. Before paying respects at the funeral of dozens of soldiers killed in a shooting at a military base, again when a large forest fire was destroying cultural treasures in Gangwon province and finally when residents of southern Korea were suffering from floods, Mr. Lee played golf. He even promised not to do so again. And yet, he repeated such insensitive behavior, and we have no choice but to see him as arrogant enough not to care about the nation.
Third, Mr. Lee played golf with inappropriate partners. One was under a government investigation for price-fixing and stock price manipulation. Regardless of who arranged the gathering, Mr. Lee is responsible for choosing his companions, taking into account the possible implications. Furthermore, Mr. Lee was suspected of having been lobbied by Yoon Sang-lim, a famous influence-peddler, as they played golf when Mr. Lee served as a lawmaker. At the National Assembly, Mr. Lee made clear to opposition lawmakers that he had never been lobbied, but he went to play golf with another dubious businessman the next day. That simply shows the extreme degree of Mr. Lee’s arrogance.
Fourth, Mr. Lee was dishonest. The media uncovered a series of suspicions and he repeatedly changed his statements.
Mr. Lee is stepping down, but the issue does not end there. The prosecution must investigate this case and press charges against all responsible people in order to strengthen discipline in officialdom. Mr. Lee exercised more power than any other prime minister. His resignation may put a heavier burden of national governance on Mr. Roh’s shoulders. Important and difficult tasks are mounting. Mr. Roh must name an expert as Mr. Lee’s successor, not a political hack.