A president transformedA free trade agreement with the United States is a turning point for the history of Korea, and also for the legacy of President Roh Moo-hyun. Right after the deal was signed, the president’s approval rating jumped by 10 percentage points. It now stands above 30 percent in some surveys. His approval rating used to be around 10 percent. A Blue House spokesperson said Roh has seen such a huge improvement that it’s hard to get accustomed to it, like traveling to an unfamiliar time zone. The people’s support for the president reflects his actions, just as a mirror reflects an object’s image. When the president does the right thing, the people support him. His restored approval ratings represent uplifting news for the country.
The Blue House has no time to remain perplexed by the president’s improved position, because he needs to make a decision to complete his transformation. He must think seriously about why he was so unpopular before, the meaning of the current surge in his approval ratings, the meaning of presidential leadership and the things he needs to do during the remaining portion of his term. And then he needs to change government policies on several key issues of state.
First, the president must withdraw the proposal for a constitutional revision that is scheduled to be presented to the National Assembly. The nation, both its people and lawmakers, think the revision needs to be examined, but they believe it must be left to the next administration. The free trade accord with Washington has taught us that we need to follow the direction that the majority of the population prefers.
The president should take advantage of the good mood created by the free trade agreement. In doing so, he should work to get the National Assembly’s approval for the deal and prepare other measures that command widespread public support. He also needs to use the positive mood as a springboard to resolve difficult tasks such as the reform of the state-run pension program.
If he goes ahead and proposes a constitutional revision, that would be like drowning fresh cherry blossoms in freezing hail. He would once again earn the reputation of being an obstinate president who creates conflict.
History has left a few more pages for the president to fill. He has chosen the right way to start on these precious blank sheets by campaigning for the free trade accord with Washington. He should not waste this opportunity with inappropriate side plots. We hope that the president will give serious thought to making these last pages his masterpiece.