[Viewpoint] Bringing Park back into the fold

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[Viewpoint] Bringing Park back into the fold

A rational nation does not open up its skull and split its brain in two. We must prevent the division of the capital by all means.

No country would commit the folly of cutting out its government’s administrative branch and moving it somewhere else. Proponents of the plan cite Germany’s split capital, but in fact the people of that country regret the decision.

Balanced regional development is a crucial task, but that does not justify two capital cities. There are so many other ways to attain that goal while avoiding the frightful inefficiency that would result from the division of the administrative branch.

President Lee Myung-bak took belated yet courageous action and corrected the decision. In order to persuade the public, the ruling party is staging a full-scale press offensive. However, even overwhelming public opinion won’t have much of an effect on this issue.

What is realistically important is the choice of former Grand National Party Chairwoman Park Geun-hye. The Democratic Party and the Liberty Forward Party will always continue to strongly oppose the revised plan. But the Lee Myung-bak administration would be able to break through their opposition if Park Geun-hye were to come on board and help. A historic showdown between Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye is approaching. What can Lee do to win Park over?

For starters, President Lee needs to acknowledge the substantial power Park Geun-hye holds. In a televised debate on Nov. 27, the president said that there was no distinction in the Grand National Party between mainstream and non-mainstream, but that remark is false on its face. Park Geun-hye is the leader of the strongest out-of-power party faction in Korea’s modern history. There have been many similar factions, but none that confronted the ruling faction as blatantly.

During the Park Chung Hee era, Kim Jong-pil was the most notable non-mainstream leader. Kim suffered through oppression for years, and just as he was about to be named heir, Park Chung Hee was assassinated and everything changed.

During the Chun Doo Hwan administration, Roh Tae-woo kept a low profile. Meanwhile, Chun Doo Hwan’s cronies, including Roh Shin-young and Jang Se-dong, kept Roh Tae-woo in check and Roh did not even dream of rebelling. The June 29 Declaration was not an act of rebellion but the joint work of Chun and Roh.

The non-mainstream leader during the Roh Tae-woo administration was Kim Young-sam. Kim pressured Roh over his election. However, he never openly opposed the president’s policy.

Kim Jong-pil was once again the non-mainstream leader during the Kim Young-sam administration, but he was an obedient one. The Sangdo-dong sect led by Choi Hyeong-wu pressured him, and Kim Jong-pil left the ruling Democratic Liberal Party and established the United Liberal Democrats.

Kim Dae-jung had two factional leaders opposing him, Kim Sang-hyeon and Chung Dae-cheol, but they were held in check without much resistance. During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the entire ruling party was outside the mainstream since Roh Moo-hyun himself lost power.

It was Lee Myung-bak himself who made Park Geun-hye the most powerful factional politician in history. During the presidential campaign, Park gave her full support to Lee, who promised to treat her as a partner in national administration in return. It was a pledge made not just to Park but also to the citizens. That promise was not kept, as seen in the “party nomination massacre” last year.

Park said, “I was deceived, and so were the citizens.” That’s when the confrontational Park Geun-hye faction was born.

So the powerful faction led by Park is a result of the sins of President Lee. If she had been absorbed as a partner in the administration, she would not have opposed the revisions to the Sejong City plan so fiercely. I am not saying Park’s beliefs can be changed, but she would have been far more understanding if Lee had been sincere.

It is time for the man who tied the knot to untie it. President Lee needs to acknowledge the past and the present. He has made a sincere apology to the citizens on Sejong, repenting and saying he was embarrassed.

He should express the same sincerity to Park. A birthday cake and an appointment as a special envoy are not enough. He needs to keep his promise to make her a partner and appeal to her to work with him for the sake of the nation. Moreover, he should promise a fair competition for succession. He needs to give his word that there will not be another nomination massacre.

If President Lee fails to persuade Park and Park turns down the revisions to the Sejong City plan, the Lee Myung-bak administration will wander into a foggy sea, just like the cargo ship approaching Skull Island in “King Kong.”

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin
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