A time to unite and respondWhen a national emergency occurs, it is crucial for the head of state to address the public and take action. Under such a leader, a nation musters the energy to heal and beat back catastrophe.
U.S. President George W. Bush connected with the public almost daily through press conferences, interviews and televised addresses when the country came under attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
President Park Chung Hee declared bluntly, “A crazy dog should be beaten,” a day after North Korean soldiers killed two U.S. Army officers in the Joint Security Area within the demilitarized zone in August 1976.
President Lee Myung-bak Monday stood before the public for the first time since the Cheonan sank after an unexplained explosion on March 26. He may have wanted to wait for a more plausible explanation, because unlike Sept. 11 and the ax murders at Panmunjom, the cause of the Cheonan’s sinking is less obvious. But he waited too long. He should have addressed the public when the stern of the ship finally surfaced last week, and it became evident that the ship had been hit and sunk by an external attack.
President Lee’s voice broke and tears ran down his face as he read the names of the 46 lost sailors from the wreck. President Bush too fought back tears when he said he was praying for the victims two days after the Sept. 11 attack. For a state leader to shed tears reflects the trauma of a tragedy. The offender must pay for the tears the people and our leader have shed over this loss.
Equally important, the president must display composure in taking stern action. President Lee pledged to uncover the truth and respond resolutely to the attack. He also vowed to reinforce the military so that such an incident never recurs. His promise is more important than any other he has made as a candidate or president.
Nothing tops security in a country technically at war with the world’s last hard-line Stalinist regime.
Bush pledged to hunt down the terrorists and bring them to justice while warning countries protecting terrorists. He was true to his word, and his successor President Barack Obama continues to carry out that campaign.
Lee met ruling and opposition party leaders after the address and will meet with former presidents, military officers and religious leaders. He should seek wisdom and a firm and wise response to the possible North Korean attack. His advisers should put forward their ideas motivated by patriotism, not self-serving concerns. The Democratic Party should also support a response even as it holds the government and military accountable. There can be no opposition to solving a security crisis like this one.
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