It’s time for Lee to talk

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It’s time for Lee to talk

Ahead of the June 2 local elections, the nation is in a state of unrest. Politicians lately have attacked major agenda items pushed forward by President Lee Myung-bak. These topics have become the subjects of irreconcilable political fights. Sejong City and the four rivers restoration project face fierce criticism, as well as administration officials’ recent slip of the tongue about the religious community.

Politicians should deal with the outcome of the elections, but we are worried about the future of national governance.

The four rivers restoration project is one of the largest state-run programs of the Lee administration, and the religious community has recently voiced its opposition to it. It was lamentable that administration officials said they did not try to convince protesters about the plan’s merits because there were just too many. The situation was so deplorable that President Lee berated the officials, saying, “We must not think there’s no use trying to persuade protesters.”

It’s true, the government’s efforts to persuade the public have been severely lacking. There is no need to compare Korea’s situation with how U.S. President Barack Obama handled the health care reform bill. President Lee only broadcast his speeches and avoided meeting critics of his plans. He has not even held an appropriate press conference, which were frequent even during the military regimes of the past.

Ministers only repeated the government’s position and closed their ears to other opinions. Therefore, the administration deserves to be criticized for unilaterally pushing forward some projects.

President Lee is the key. Who else could persuade former Grand National Party chairwoman Park Geun-hye, who refuses to even meet with the prime minister, as well as the opposition parties’ heads? Who else could persuade the religious community, which persistently calls into question the president’s religious bias?

It won’t be possible to telephone critics individually and meet with them one by one like Obama has. But Lee, at least, should show some effort to invite politicians and religious leaders to the Blue House and provide sincere explanations about what his plans are.

President Lee many times spoke proudly about his vigorous efforts to sell the people on his Cheonggye Stream restoration project. As Seoul mayor, his special task force held 4,300 meetings with the owners of stores along the stream.

The four rivers plan is far more sensitive and massive than the Cheonggye Stream restoration. Political interests are also at stake. It is hard to understand why Lee is not showing his special talent - persuasive leadership.
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