President’s New Year’s taskPresident Lee Myung-bak is famous for his unceasing diligence and enthusiasm for work. His approval rating, which is over 40 percent, is no doubt where it is because of his stringent work ethic. In a New Year’s message he delivered to the nation yesterday you could just feel his attitude of “working harder and harder.”
In the address, President Lee stressed the importance of the economy, vowing to achieve 5 percent growth while holding inflation to 3 percent. We hope his goal of chasing two rabbits at once will be successful so the government can create more jobs and enhance the quality of life at the same time.
His commitment to diplomacy and security is also noteworthy, as illustrated by his declaration to augment our deterrence against North Korean aggression and push ahead with military reform, while leaving open the possibility of dialogue with the North. Such a shift in position may hint that he hopes to pursue diplomacy in a more realistic fashion.
No major elections will be held in Korea this year, which presents the perfect environment for Lee to wrap up a series tasks as president. But it cannot be done with hard work alone. Hard work should be combined with efforts to calm social and political conflict. But we are concerned because he said nothing about politics during his New Year’s speech. Moreover, 2011 marks the fourth year of his five-year term, when he should start to worry about being a lame duck. As the clock ticks, his grip on power will be weaker.
Fortunately, Lee has been free from corruption compared to his predecessors, which has played a big part in sustaining his remarkably high approval rating. But the political situation will most likely change this year. In the early days of his presidency, he pushed for a free trade agreement with the United States against many opponents who countered with a huge wave of candlelight vigils. Though FTA negotiations are over now, the possibility for its ratification by the National Assembly seems even slimmer because of the uncooperative attitude of the current chairman of the foreign affairs and trade committee, who said he will not simply follow the president’s guidelines on the matter. More than 20 GNP lawmakers sided with the chairman, which suggests that some compromises with the opposition may be necessary.
What is needed for President Lee now is leadership based on dialogue, persuasion and compromise. That is the only way for him to be remembered as a competent president.