A vision for ParkPark Geun-hye is a protean figure in Korean politics. She is powerful. She has been a first lady, the leader of her party and a National Assembly representative. She was an aspiring presidential candidate, running against Lee Myung-bak in the 2007 Grand National Party primary. And she appears likely to succeed Lee in the next presidential contest. Her acolytes are unmatched by other potential candidates. Her devotees total over 40 legislators and without them, Lee’s faction in the party cannot exercise a majority in the Assembly.
Her supporters were shunned when the ruling party nominated candidates to run in the general elections last April after Lee took office, and the chasm between him and Park widened beyond reconciliation. Park has since been acting either as a cautious potential presidential candidate or the uncooperative leader of a marginal political faction.
Perhaps with an eye on the next presidential race, she pays too much attention to media coverage and because she is on the sidelines, she confronts the mainstream. Park sided with the opposition and the public in their anger against the government’s handling of American beef imports last summer. She was critical of the ruling party in its showdown with opposition parties in December over contentious legislative bills. She remarked that authorities were too hasty in raiding the sit-in at a redevelopment site in Yongsan that led to six deaths ?? a comment expected more from opposition parties and out of sync with the ruling party’s decision to not come to conclusions about the incident until after investigations end.
When Park sat with Lee over lunch on Monday, she said the government and the party first need to win public consensus over controversial bills. In other words, she was against the GNP’s plan to pass the bills during the current extraordinary session. Park may have logic behind her thoughts but we cannot help but ask, how does she see her role as a national leader?
A political leader must speak truth and principles. She can excoriate the government and ruling party, but at the same time should be critical of reckless protests and violence displayed by opposition sectors.
Park is an authority figure, not a political critic. The president failed to embrace her after the presidential election and is partly to be blamed for turning her into a Momus.
If she but looks beyond Lee, Park will see a confused society afflicted by unprecedented economic turmoil. When she sees that, Park will find her real opponent and future.