The president misses the point

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The president misses the point

President Lee Myung-bak has remained ambiguous even as his approval rating and that of the ruling party are in free-fall amid signs that the public desires a new direction.

In a rare appearance on a TV show, Lee skirted questions posed by guests and spoke nonchalantly on turmoil surrounding his leadership and ruling party. He presented himself more as a political pundit or outsider, rather than a president with accountability that seeks to unite his party ahead of next year’s general and presidential elections.

President Lee coolly commented that the political sector got what it deserved with the explosive popularity of software pioneer Ahn Cheol-soo over the past week amid speculation that he may run in the Seoul mayoral by-election in October.

Ahn, lacking political experience or a base, enjoyed an approval rating of 50 percent in polls - even beating Park Geun-hye, the front-runner for next year’s presidential elections.

“We are in a smart period, but politics remains analog,” he said, emphasizing that politics must adapt to the times. He added that he would distance himself from politics - as if current affairs are unrelated to him.

It should be the president who spearheads a campaign to revamp mainstream politics. To neglect political reform by staying on the sidelines is irresponsible. His attitude is unfit for the country’s top executive.

More than anyone else, he must take into account the public’s enthusiasm for Ahn. The dean of Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology criticized the current administration as “running against the historical tide” and “backtracking to the age of the autocratic Park Chung Hee in the 1970s.” Ahn may not be entirely just in his comments, but it is undeniable that many voters would agree with his sentiment.

The president is the centerpiece of his administration. Ahn’s critical remarks that exacted enormous public support more or less targeted the president directly.

The frenzy over Ahn has not been motivated by the technocrat, but the public’s longing for change. Lee should have accepted and been moved by the phenomenon.

President Lee pledged to do his utmost until his final day in office. If he genuinely does not want to turn into a lame duck, he must exercise more actively engage legislative politics and public. Words without sincere actions are no way to connect.

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