An evolution for LeeToday, President Lee Myung-bak embarks on his second year of a five-year tenure. A year ago, his inauguration sparked a flame of hope for a society reform makeover. We nurtured hopes for a president of principles, promise and common sense; a diligent, efficient government; reasonable, tolerant political power; a productive, inclusive legislature engaging opposition parties; and the public acknowledging government authority.
But the moment of disillusionment came too soon and the flame has died out. The president proved easily swayed, his appointments messy, the ruling party at an abyss and the opposition knee-jerk. His small set of touted reform plans are still mired in legislative swamps. His people are caught in a hemorrhaging economy while his political supporters and opponents remain resistant, bickering over political differences.
With the dawn of a second year, the president faces a new test. His administration has a heavy workload waiting. It needs to reboot the task force to combat economic crisis, reinvent policies to restructure government, public entities and education and completely overhaul the legislative structure and relations. The president should be the bedrock of this reform structure because he is at the core of the state system. President Lee must be the first to change. He should put forward a new leadership on the basis of the lessons he learned from his failures in the past year. He needs to return to his promises of common sense and principles. His common thread should be in line with what the public wants. He needs to look beyond his group of acolytes to recruit new brains and talent into his administration. The president’s trials mostly derived from his failure to keep his word. He needs to uphold his promise to work side by side with his former presidential rival Park Geun-hye and mend the divide in the ruling party. A fractured majority party cannot wield power in the legislature.
President Lee tried to maintain discipline and order in handling the public dispute following the disastrous breakup of a demonstration at a redevelopment site in Yongsan. But he nevertheless gave in to opposition demands and his nominee for national police chief had to withdraw.
On top of reason and principles, President Lee also must learn to communicate and be more tolerant. He needs to seek wisdom from senior politicians and opponents. He must engage the opposition through discussions and and cajoling. He also needs to reach out to North Korea and restore dialogue.
As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth this year, we wish to see a creative and transformative evolution of the president’s leadership.