[Viewpoint]Keeping promisesWe need to be familiar with a few key words to appreciate Korean politics. One of them is “betrayal.” Many politicians could not break free from the yoke of betrayal during the recent presidential election.
They include Sohn Hak-kyu, former governor of Gyeonggi Province, independent candidate Lee Hoi-chang and Rhee In-je of the Democratic Party. Bolting from a party and refusing to accept the results of a primary election are acts of political betrayal.
United New Democratic Party candidate Chung Dong-young had a hard time because he once attacked Kwon Rho-kap, the leader of the pro-Kim Dae-jung faction of the now-defunct Millennium Democratic Party toward the end of the Kim Dae-jung administration.
He also separated from President Roh Moo-hyun although he served as chairman of the governing party and minister of national unification under Roh.
One of the reasons President-elect Lee Myung-bak extended his hand to National Assemblyman Chung Mong-joon in the last stage of the presidential race was in part to silence the rumor that he had trouble with the former Hyundai Chairman Chung Ju-yung.
In order to see if the Lee Myung-bak administration gets a smooth start, we need to pay special attention to the first step it takes. It is important to see whether personnel appointments ― starting with members of the transition committee, the first cabinet members and the Blue House staff ― are made properly.
The people’s first impression of the administration depends on them. A president’s political ability is no less important than his ability to manage personnel affairs. If the president fails to deal well with the political community, he will continuously confront difficulties. Lee’s touchstone will be his approach to the former chairperson of the Grand National Party, Park Geun-hye.
There is a high chance that the Grand National Party will win a majority in the National Assembly in the general election next April. The party has been given a boost because President-elect Lee succeeded in getting visible political power, while Park gained invisible political influence from the process of this election. With the pro-Roh political forces still in shock over the loss, we must acknowledge that Park is the only politician who can stand up to Lee.
Park lost to Lee only by a margin of 1.5 percent in the party primary, but she accepted the result. And she made her position on the candidacy of Lee Hoi-chang clear by saying, “It is not proper.”
Then she demonstrated her political ability by making President-elect Lee announce a “partnership” with her, and she gave him support till the end, even amidst the turmoil of the BBK suspicions. She kept her promise to stand behind the results of the party primary.
According to psychologist Jonathan White, just watching the good or honorable deeds of another person can create a positive psychological effect.
Park brought catharsis to people during a chaotic election.
Of course, candidate Lee’s election camp complained that “Park’s camp shook us from behind and was never willing to help us.” However, politics should be viewed from the level of the people. In the process of running for office, Park broke away from her old image, the daughter of Park Chung Hee. She firmed up her own position as a political leader in her own right.
There is a saying that hardship can be shared, but glory cannot. A hasty SOS was sent to Park during the election, but the election is over now. Many Lee supporters do not want to acknowledge Park as a partner in the Lee administration. This is the characteristic of power. The “season of betrayal” is now nearly in full swing.
A battle of patience has started between Lee and Park. The side that turns its back first will suffer. This is the reason why Park stepped out of the spotlight as soon as the election ended.
Park has experience in endurance and patience. She has endured nearly 19 years since the death of her father.
The ball is now in Lee’s court because Park kept her promise of submitting to the primary result.
If Lee Myung-bak keeps his promise of a partnership with Park and honors her as the person who contributed the most to his victory, he will be able to harness the influence she enjoys. This will also limit the range of Park’s political maneuverability.
On the other hand, if people start to suspect that Park has been betrayed, it will be the start of a political nightmare for Lee. Betrayal will justify political separation. If it happens before the general election, it will be a fatal blow to Lee. It would also be a misfortune for the people who look forward to seeing an upgraded Republic of Korea.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo