[Outlook]Spending the public’s supportOnly three months have passed since the presidential inauguration, but already the administration is sailing in a sea of trouble. On one level, this is surprising. This is a time when people have excessively high hopes for improvement and positive change in the country, and President Lee Myung-bak is an enthusiastic champion for innovating state affairs. Yet at this juncture he faces a maze of interconnected problems.
The government is in political turmoil.
Perhaps President Lee’s strong enthusiasm to get a head start right after the election backfired. It is a reality that in a five-year cycle, the President has no choice but to make a mad dash from the outset.
However, presidents should not count his chickens before they hatch. We must always keep political principles in mind.
The late President Park Chung Hee played a crucial role in leading the nation’s industrialization by maintaining an authoritarian political system for more than 18 years. It’s unrealistic to implement overly ambitious goals within a president’s first tenure.
President Lee is required to run national affairs within the limits of a five-year presidential term. His foremost task is to assign and manage policy priorities in a rational manner. President Lee should have the wisdom to classify short-term and long-term goals and keep them prioritized.
Short term goals are national tasks that the government can achieve within the presidential tenure. On the other hand, long-term goals should be planned in close collaboration with the next government.
Second, it would be preferable if the President implemented policies in a rapid and certain phase from the outset.
However, he should not underestimate the value of basic political principles, especially the importance of balanced power management.
When we implement new and innovative policies, political capital can be quickly spent. Unless the government wins enough public support, it will suffer from a deficit of power.
Public support should be proportionate to national spending of power.
If the scope of deficit plummets, a political crisis looms.
Let’s look at what roles the president-elect, presidential transition team and ruling party played during the run up to the inauguration.
Nearly all efforts were focused on new policy development, implementation of innovations and personnel changes.
The new government faced an urgent need to change the way the previous administration, led by the progressive political camp, ran the country during the past decade.
Thus, it is natural that the need to spend political capital increases rapidly.
The question is about how earnestly the new government strove to win more public support.
The government is required to provide the public with a new political vision and implement national strategies.
It needs public support for its programs.
Indeed, the most important power resources for a democratic country are public support and a positive trend of public opinion.
The best solution is to possess a majority of seats in the national parliament. The Lee Myung-bak government had an excellent opportunity to secure a stable source of political capital.
It linked a landslide victory in the 17th presidential election with a majority of seats in the National Assembly.
It was full speed ahead.
People have high expectations for strong presidential leadership in leading to significant changes.
It is a national hope that the new government will make great efforts to restore a strong alliance between Korea and the United States, change the South-North Korean relationship into one that is pragmatic and mutually-beneficial relationship and facilitate national growth and economic development.
In fact, viewed from the perspective of conservatives versus progressives, the public gave the ruling party a landslide victory by 5 million votes in the presidential election and elected 200 lawmakers from the ruling party.
The public has already given the ruling party the power to run a stable National Assembly
Despite such public support, the president and the ruling party are confronted with nose-diving public opinion due to unexpected disheartening factors.
This is also mainly due to a lack of political leadership, vision, and strategy.
Now, it is high time for the new government to focus on political principles and explore new political ways.
*The writer, a former prime minister, is an adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo.Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Hong-koo