It’s the president’s turn

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It’s the president’s turn

When the wreckage of the 1,200-ton Navy corvette Cheonan surfaced, it was a rude awakening that demonstrated we live under threat of an attack from outside forces. Our Navy was shot down in our own waters. It was the biggest maritime assault, and our biggest loss, since the Korean War broke out in 1950. Such a perilous state of security calls for leadership from the military’s chief commander - the president.

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young bowed before the public, apologizing for his actions after the explosion on March 26, which tore the ship in two and sent the stern into the ocean with 46 sailors trapped inside. But in crucial times like this, we need to see someone higher. We need the president. He is the chief military commander and he should have stood before the public to explain the situation. He should have displayed a firm resolve and reassured the population their lives and property would be protected. Only the president can take retaliatory action and only he can boost the military’s morale and ensure it is ready for any external provocation. In times of peril, only he can ask for the public’s trust.

Our ancestors also had commanders in chief who were dogged by political wrangling even as they defended battlefields against invaders. The Joseon Dynasty court debated whether to fight just before Japanese soldiers invade the land. Admiral Yi Sun-shin, despite numerous victories in wars against Japan, suffered hatred and jealousy from his contemporaries and the court, serving in battles to his death as a commoner.

As we confront the possibility of a torpedo attack in our waters, we, too, are experiencing internal strife. The Internet is rife with conspiracy theories and fears of war. A torpedo attack from a rogue adversary has downed one of our naval ships, but the entire country will be brought down if this state of fear and confusion persists. We need our president to unite the nation.

On Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush addressed the nation three times, assuring citizens that the state would do everything in its power to protect them. He also pledged to hunt down the forces that had attacked the country until they were eliminated. The following day he decided to take military action, and on Sept. 14 he announced the country would engage in a war on terrorism. On Sept. 20, he delivered his State of the Union address. In response, the nation applauded his determined rhetoric.

Now, it is up to the president to generate such unanimous and undivided support. We don’t need the presidential spokesman or the defense minister. President Lee Myung-bak must address the nation. He must ease the public’s anxiety and declare the actions we must take to confront the serious threat we face.

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