Sycophancy as usualFormer Grand National Party chairwoman Park Geun-hye embarked on a tour of three European nations as a special presidential envoy. She was seen off by Chung Jin-suk, the senior presidential secretary for political affairs, and around 30 members of the ruling party. A news photo showed the front-runner in polls of potential presidential candidates sitting in a waiting room encircled by her supporters.
Such a scene isn’t often seen in advanced political societies. But in ours, it is customary for an army of party members to flock to the airport whenever a high-profile political figure embarks or returns from any overseas trip. These tributes are hardly work-related, but mostly used as a way of making eye-contact with the traveling big gun. It is a painful sight to watch grown up politicians rush to greet their political seniors like a mob of boy-band fans.
The recent airport parade was particularly pitiful as it coincided with the crushing defeat of the ruling party in Wednesday’s by-elections. The entire GNP leadership tendered its resignation after the ruling party won only one seat in four major elections. The party’s loss in the traditionally rich and conservative base of Budang, by a candidate who once led the party, underscored the depth of public disappointment and loss of confidence in the government and ruling party. This should have been a time for self-reflection and regret. The party should have been deeply humbled and concentrated on recreating itself. Introspection and a plan to redeem the party and regain public trust should have been the imperative - not crowding around Park to squeeze into a photo op. We have to question whether the ruling party has any serious fear of the public.
The Blue House should also be deeply reflective about the by-election defeat. It is not a pretty sight to see a senior presidential secretary beaming the day after such a debacle. The secretary of political affairs, of course, has to work as a bridge between the government and the party for smooth connections. But the public won’t be happy seeing him chatting away with party members as if they didn’t have a concern in the world.
Some party members have proposed to field Park as a kind of relief pitcher by making her the new GNP chairperson or head of an emergency committee. She has been prudent and brushed aside the idea. But the photo of Park surrounded by her political barnacles hardly shows her in a modest light. She should remember that the public these days doesn’t miss a thing.