100 days old

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100 days old

Korea is in political turmoil and facing a difficult economic situation. Amid such concerns, President Lee Myung-bak will reach his 100th day in office tomorrow. The port of becoming an advanced country is still a long sail away and it is wrapped in mist. Passengers are shouting at the captain, “Do the right thing!” Even though exit polls showed Lee winning nearly double the votes of his closest competitor, a survey shows that his current approval rating has nose-dived to 20 percent.

At this time around 15 years ago, the approval rating of former President Kim Young-sam skyrocketed to 95.7 percent. Kim, who was armed with ethical legitimacy, drove ahead with reform policies. He threw the assets enjoyed by public officials open to the general public, severely punished corrupt officials and eradicated military factions. The national reform was successful and created a way forward for the country.

Former President Kim Dae-jung had to shoulder responsibility for a nation in a serious condition a decade ago, and achieved remarkable economic growth in his first 100 days. Foreign investment increased by three to four times, and the won to dollar exchange rate rose to 1,400 won. Korea’s sovereign credit rating was raised by three levels. These two officials showed how important the president’s early time in office is.

Five years ago, President Roh Moo-hyun reached his 100th day in office plunged into confusion and depression. His approval rating exceeded 80 percent soon after the election, but fell to 52 percent later. He continued to make huge mistakes, and his frivolous behavior undermined the people’s trust and his authority as president.

For example, someone raised the question in a press conference, “Doesn’t the president’s frivolous and paradoxical speech have a demoralizing influence on national management?”

The first 100 days of his three predecessors can provide valuable lessons to President Lee. Kim Young-sam faced the national crisis of going bankrupt at the end of his tenure, and Kim Dae-jung faltered due to his sons’ corruption. Roh lost nearly all his power to govern the nation. A president’s five-year tenure is a marathon. President Lee can find a way to change the situation if he learns from his failures in the first 100 days and reshuffles himself and his government. His reform policy should serve as a turning point to mark a new beginning. The president should hire the least tainted and most competent professionals, and launch a new system.
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