[Viewpoint] Winning over a hardened heart

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[Viewpoint] Winning over a hardened heart

When the Grand National Party had its presidential primary in 2007, former President Kim Young-sam supported Lee Myung-bak over Park Geun-hye. To those close to him, the former president said, “How dare a woman run for president?”

When Park Geun-hye resigned as party chairwoman in June 2006, politicians had trouble deciding on exactly what to call her. “Former Chairwoman Park” was too long, and calling her by her name without any title seemed too crass. Some came up with a nickname, “Ms. P,” but these days, she is widely called “Chairwoman Park.”

However, when just two or three politicians are within earshot, they refer to her as “the girl,” or “the auntie.” They might not have meant any disrespect, but Kim Young-sam and other politicians had her gender in mind when they referred to her in those terms.

Intentionally and unintentionally, they begin by finding the woman in Park Geun-hye. Such a psychological disposition is likely to fail when anticipating her moves or making a deal with her.

Park Geun-hye is a human before she is a woman, and she is a special one at that. She was educated as a royal heir in the Blue House and played the role of the first lady for five years. As first lady, the 22-year-old Park made many mistakes, such as her involvement in the Women’s Volunteer Corps and the Choi Tae-min scandal. Nevertheless, the Blue House was a valuable training ground to learn what power was all about. Park had hands-on experience with how power worked. She witnessed how the nation worked. It’s not an experience just anyone can have.

What makes Park Geun-hye even more special are the vicissitudes she has endured. Her mother was killed by a pro-Pyongyang assassin, and her father was shot by the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, who was his right-hand man. Park herself was attacked by a deranged man with a box cutter. And upon leaving the Blue House, she has been betrayed numerous times.

Instead of having the common happiness that comes from love, marriage and parenthood, she has lived through a panorama of tragedy. In her dramatic life, she has developed her own survival strategies and ambitions. Park Geun-hye is a rock sculpted by the twin dynamics of power and people. What is the key to opening the heart of such a special person? Will she be swayed by a tactful invitation to a secret banquet, or the friendly gesture of a birthday cake? Will she be open to the political maneuvering behind appointing Kim Mu-seong as the next party leader?

Alas, her heart will not be moved by such a gesture. The key is sincerity. Sincerity is the best policy between individuals as well as between powers.

Kim Young-sam called Kim Dae-jung the biggest liar on earth. Kim Dae-jung’s aide Park Jie-won denied that Kim Young-sam told more lies. The two together underwent the rough time of democratization, served as presidents in turn and now seem to have nothing to fight over. But they are still wrangling because of mutual distrust.

In order to change a heart of stone, Lee Myung-bak has to show sincerity. First, he needs to apologize for not keeping the promises to make Park a partner in his administration and to have fair nominations of candidates for elections. And, as top leader, he should run the party fairly. But he might feel differently. He might prefer Lee Jae-oh as his successor, or Chung Mong-jun, Hong Jun-pyo, Oh Se-jun or Kim Mun-su. No matter who he has in mind, he has to maintain fairness in everything.

He should ensure that rules are respected fairly and let any contender play by those rules. Last year, when the supporters of Park Geun-hye were politically massacred in the party nomination process, she must have accumulated huge distrust. She had to fight party hegemony as well as the nomination for the National Assembly. Moreover, should she run in the party primary for the next president, she must think that a fair game might be a mirage if things continue as they have. President Lee needs to win her trust. He can worry about sharing power later. If he fails to win Park’s trust, the party may be divided in two. Old swordsman Lee Hoi-chang is waiting outside the fortress. If a fair framework is prepared, Park Geun-hye will help the conservative administration.

Lee Myung-bak has a track record in sincerity. When he won the hearts of the late chairman of Hyundai Group, Chung Ju-young, and the merchants along Cheonggye Stream, was he using engineering or sincerity?

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin

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