[Viewpoint]Park needs to extend herself againRight after the Grand National Party announced the result of its presidential candidate primary, Park Geun-hye declared she would solemnly accept the decision. And her clear-cut acceptance of the defeat moved the public.
To the eyes of Koreans, it was perhaps more impressive because they had never seen, even once, a candidate defeated in a primary accept the election result.
The atmosphere at that time was so sympathetic to Park that it almost seemed like she could win the election for president if it were held that day.
Some people said, “She paid back all the debts her late father owed to democracy.”
They also said, “She has been born again as a political leader, getting rid of the political burden she carries as the daughter of former President Park Chung Hee.”
When she was attacked and got a serious wound on her face during the local election in May 2006, she displayed a resolute and dauntless demeanor.
Of course, people admired her attitude, but it was just an evaluation of her character and nature as a politician, nothing else.
By accepting the primary results, Park showed us something.
Credit for upgrading Korea’s democracy to a higher level should go to Park.
Two weeks have passed since the primary.
We have still not heard of any moves toward reconciliation from either side. It seems that Lee Myung-bak’s acceptance speech, “Let’s forget everything that happened in the process of the party primary,” and Park’s speech in response, “Now, let’s forget everything that happened during the primary,” are fading in the people’s memory.
Both sides may be hesitant.
Lee has said, “What if I get refused after extending a hand to them?”
Park’s side thinks, “How can the loser propose helping the winner?”
If those concerns are the reason they aren’t reconciling, we may be able to wait and see them come back together with a smile, as if watching an old-fashioned love story.
They are not moving ahead together on the road to reconciliation and cooperation as planned. Instead, they are staging a typical power struggle.
Lee’s side is busy accepting former Park supporters and persuading others who are thought to be people who can be drawn over to their side.
Perhaps they want to grasp political power without Park’s help.
Inside Park’s camp, there must be different factions: Some may want assurances from Lee that their right to run in the next legislative election will be guaranteed. If not, they might threaten to bolt from the party.
There are also people who continue to insist there is a need to change presidential candidates while waiting expectantly for Lee to fail as the party’s presidential candidate.
Both sides know the other side’s moves quite well. And their antipathy toward their rival keeps growing as mistrust snowballs.
Under such circumstances, even if Park agrees to head Lee’s election camp or if her supporters get an assurance from Lee that he will not discriminate against them during the nomination process for candidates in next year’s legislative elections, the fundamental mistrust between the two camps will not disappear.
Even if they sign an agreement to establish a “Lee-Park joint administration,” it would be nothing but scrap of paper if there is no mutual confidence.
In practice, the tie-up or departure of the two political leaders is, to be precise, nothing but a problem of the Grand National Party.
Whether Lee shows broad-mindedness and tolerance, or whether Park serves the party as a commoner, it is all up to the two.
The one thing I regret most, however, that is we are once again losing the chance to set a precedent of a candidate accepting the results of a primary.
Therefore, I would like to ask Park not to wait for Lee to extend his hand, but to show courage and approach him first.
If she does, she will keep her promise to the people and her acceptance of the primary election result will bear fruit.
And that will benefit her politically more than getting hundreds of written assurances from her rival.
Park can stand tall as a politician who set a precedent by accepting the results of the primary election for the first time. How can anyone mistreat such a political leader?
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo