[EDITORIALS]Calm down, stick aroundA Cabinet meeting is a place where ways to improve the country are discussed and the plans for the country are drawn up. At such a meeting, President Roh Moo-hyun talked about the possibility that he might quit.
He has made the people feel insecure instead of consoling them. He was like a father who says over breakfast he might run away when he is supposed to give hope to his family. South Koreans are taken aback and are speechless.
This is not the first such incident. Three months after he took office, he said he felt a sense of crisis such that he might no longer be able to continue as president. Three months is a very short time after which to talk about such serious hardships or a crisis. It was immature to say such things after that short a time.
Five months later, in October 2003, the president said he might step down. When the National Assembly demanded the replacement of the minister of home affairs and rejected Mr. Roh’s nominee for head of the Board of Audit and Inspection, the president talked about holding a vote of confidence. Such a vote is not even stipulated in the Constitution. Last year, he suggested forming a grand coalition to the Grand National Party, and said if the opposition party wanted him to surrender his power, he would examine that idea. He even said he had thought about stepping down to a lower post or shortening his tenure.
If he had followed through, the people would have at least been prepared for what happened next.
But the president kept changing his words and direction. He said things like, “The government will not fall. I will not step down from the presidency,” and, “You can find the president unskilled, hot-tempered and not agreeable. But that does not change his title.” On another occasion, he said, “I will not stop doing my duty of managing the administration and the country.”
When he talked about stepping down, the people felt shocked and insecure. Three years and nine months have passed, and yesterday it happened again. He has not much time left in his tenure and he is more diffident than ever. One can feel a sense of failure and insecurity and lack of confidence in his remarks.
The president said he has “surrendered.” When personnel appointments cause discord, he can withdraw his decision and seek a better way. But he intentionally used the word “surrender.” He said it was very hard to exert power as president because every personnel matter has been blocked.
He can appoint the right people to the right posts. Instead of thinking straight, however, he feels that everything is going against him. That is why many wonder if he is so depressed that he really should step down.
Some say if he steps down, we can elect a new president under the Constitution. But we should do everything to prevent the president from doing that.
State affairs can be thrown into disarray if we go without a president even for a few months when we have a pile of tasks on our plate, such as the North Korea nuclear crisis, low-income hardships, real estate policies, resistance from the market and violent protests. There is no guarantee that an acting president would be able to handle the crises well.
Both the governing and opposition parties are unprepared even for next year’s presidential election. Nobody knows what North Korea will do in a time of a crisis. Most of all, such an act would leave a bad example of an irresponsible resignation. We need a president, if not necessarily President Roh.
What should Mr. Roh do, then? First, he should forget his baseless, insecure feelings and calm down. He should open the Constitution and read the oath of office, which says, “I solemnly swear before the people to discharge faithfully my duties as the president.”
The presidency is not a right, nor a matter of choice; it is a duty that one should take while being prepared to risk one’s life. After making a new resolution, the president should believe in himself. He can be successful if he performs well for the rest of his term. To do so, he should change himself.
He should listen carefully to criticism about his candidates for unification minister and the head of the Korean Broadcasting System. Jeon Hyo-sook, the nominee for the chief justice of the Constitutional Court, had to be replaced because the procedure to employ her was wrong.
The president should lift his head and open his eyes to get a better look at the administration and the country. If he replaces the prime minister and forms a neutral and pan-national Cabinet, a foundation to unite the administration will be created.
He should revamp the Blue House secretariat as well. He can bring people who have different ideas from his own to his residence and have conversations with them until late at night.
The president should forget about his ego and should make some thorough reforms. If they are made, not only the governing party but also the opposition parties will cooperate. If opposition parties work with the president, even illegal protesters will respect the president. North Korea will change their opinion of the president as well.
President Roh has one last chance before deciding whether to return to his hometown as a failed leader who has not served out his tenure.