Park needs to stand out frontPark Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the ruling Grand National Party, formally met with reporters for the first time in nearly two years after touring European nations as a presidential envoy.
She spoke about the visits to the Netherlands, Portugal and Greece, celebrating 50 years of Korea’s diplomatic ties with those countries. Park reiterated the administration’s calls for credibility and principles in political affairs, keeping her remarks short on the issues the public is most eager to hear about.
As an envoy she should talk of her mission, but the public does not regard her role and status as just that of a politician back from a diplomatic trip. The ruling Grand National Party is in disarray after its crushing defeat in last week’s by-elections. She is the only GNP heavyweight who can restore order and set a direction for the party.
Park may believe that presenting a modest image and keeping a low profile are a wise move in order to prevent hurting her name in preparation for next year’s presidential race. If she becomes involved too much in current affairs, she may get caught up in the government’s political controversies, unnecessarily damaging her.
She could also spark rivalry and resentment from the mainstream GNP faction loyal to President Lee Myung-bak for stealing the media spotlight, causing her to face a hard battle in next year’s primary.
She may have taken heed of her supporters’ advice that keeping a low profile would best help the incumbent government. Any display of conflict with the president could only further muddle governance.
But the political landscape and outlook have become entirely different after the main opposition Democratic Party’s stunning rebound in the by-elections. Even some GNP members loyal to the president are demanding a more aggressive role from Park.
The ruling party should set aside self-serving interests, calculations and pride if it intends to keep the conservatives in power. Park said she feels partly responsible for the election outcome and pledged to do more to win back public support for the party.
In representative democracy, politics should answer to the public. The ruling party should reflect upon the public’s message, which was relayed through the election outcome. To regain trust, the party must recreate itself. And Park should take initiative and stand in the forefront.