Strong leader needed

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Strong leader needed

A photograph of a tearful vegetable vendor broke the hearts of all Koreans yesterday. The old merchant, who sells vegetables at a traditional outdoor market in Seoul, burst into tears when President Lee Myung-bak visited the site and asked how her business was doing. The photo of her sobbing in Lee’s arms touched the hearts of many who are facing immense challenges amid the economic meltdown and can empathize with her situation.

Lee gave her a scarf he has been wearing for 20 years, but what’s more important now is that he comes up with solid, specific measures to stop her tears. We certainly cannot expect him to come up with golden solutions that will solve everything at this point, as the current debacle is stemming from economic problems overseas. Lee is also besieged by an unfavorable political environment at home.

But we have no choice but to speak to the president again. In times of crisis, such as a war, it is a leader’s determination and bold actions that move the public.

Lee has also indicated his concern about the economic situation here and condemned his economic advisers for having “insufficient desperation” to tackle the latest debacle.

But at the same time, the public is having trouble getting a sense of Lee’s desperation as well. The breakthrough currency swap deal with the United States gave some relief, but it seems to have little direct impact on the lives of ordinary people.

The Blue House’s chief economic adviser, Park Byeong-won, said he is willing to turn the government’s macroeconomic policy committee into an emergency team that will face the crisis. But this suggestion only indicated that Park is not taking the current situation seriously enough.

Lee should take the economic meltdown as an issue of national security of the highest priority. He has to personally lead the efforts to weather the crisis, especially given the way he has dubbed himself the “economy president” for so long. This is his best opportunity to take advantage of his background in business, yet he does not seem to be willing to do so in an active manner.

President Lee himself has come forward to reach out to the opposition parties and to his former rival, Park Geun-hye. But only an outstanding president can create outstanding cabinet members and, eventually, an outstanding ruling party.

If Lee works hard enough to win the hearts of the public, the National Assembly will not dare sit back and do nothing, like they are doing now.
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