[Outlook]A path for Park Geun-hye

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[Outlook]A path for Park Geun-hye

Park Geun-hye, 56, has been constantly seeking her identity. At the age of 22, she had to play the role of first lady. When she was in her thirties she was regarded mainly as the daughter of a dictator and lived her life as though under house arrest. She concentrated on restoring her parents’ honor until she entered politics at 46. Protecting her surviving family members was also her duty. Her family then defined Park’s identity.

She found her own identity when she became a politician. In 1988, she became a National Assemblywoman representing Dalseong District, Daegu City. In 2002, she challenged Lee Hoi-chang, who had enormous power as the chairman of the Grand National Party at that time. In the same year, she met with Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea. In 2004, she saved the GNP from a crisis over a presidential impeachment. She fought against former President Roh Moo-hyun in 2005. In 2006, she was attacked during an election campaign. In 2007, she fought against Lee Myung-bak for the party’s presidential nomination. Now, in 2008, she is fighting to get those former GNP members who bolted from the party and were elected in the legislative elections back into the party.

Going through these experiences, Park’s identity has been enlarged. She expanded her boundaries to become the hope of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, the symbol of the GNP and a woman of elections. She has been regarded as a trustworthy politician who always keeps promises and abides by her principles, which has become her trademark. She gives the impression that she believes in reunification, diplomacy and national security.

But there is a limitation that she hasn’t yet overcome. It is one of the reasons why she was defeated by Lee in the GNP primary. The problem is that she doesn’t have enough achievements. Lee has displayed his competence as a CEO and the mayor of Seoul and produced significant outcomes. In the party primary, Lee’s tangible achievements defeated Park’s principles. Park now must expand her boundaries once again and make achievements that the people can see.

Where can she find opportunities to do that? The party convention in July? By becoming a prime minister? Neither, it seems. The leadership of the party won’t give her new opportunities, but only chain her down and bury her. The party leadership will make her the leader of the GNP at best and restrain her as a prisoner of the war with the pro-Park forces. The post of prime minister can offer chances to gain ground. But how much autonomy will President Lee give Park if she is the prime minister? The room for cabinet meetings will be too narrow for two political stars to sit next to each other.

As Park considers principles most important, if the president interferes with the prime minister’s rights stipulated in the Constitution, a serious conflict may erupt. In the past, former President Kim Dae-jung and former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil formed a coalition government. They were much more skilled veteran politicians than Park and Lee, but their coalition collapsed in two years due to constant disputes.

Let’s use our imagination. What about making her ambassador to the United States late this year, after she resolves the issue of getting pro-Park lawmakers back into the GNP and reconciles with the president? The new U.S. president will be elected then and be busy preparing for inauguration. She [or he] will welcome Korean ambassador who ran for the presidency. Ambassador Park will symbolize an improved Korea-U.S. alliance. U.S. political circles will pay attention to Park and the American media, such as CNN and The New York Times, will cast a spotlight on her.

The next U.S. president will remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Then, an American embassy will be opened in Pyongyang. The last hermit kingdom on the face of the earth will be open. One of the most spectacular scenes of the century will take place. Park, the ambassador to the United States, can be a heroine of the drama, because she will meet with top decision makers from South Korea, North Korea and the United States, persuading them and adjusting differences of opinion. She will become an important politician whom the whole world pays attention to. But there is a risk as well. She is very sensitive and delicate, so she might be offended in the course of events and quit. Nonetheless, this adventure is worth trying. It seems the only way for Park to nurture her own specialties and to make achievements as a manager of peace on the Korean Peninsula.

For all this to come true, three conditions should be met beforehand. First, President Lee should offer Park the post of ambassador to Washington. Second, pro-Park politicians should let her go. Third, Park should give up her seat in the National Assembly.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chun Young-gi
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