[Viewpoint] Four pledges for Park

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[Viewpoint] Four pledges for Park

Representative Park Geun-hye has taken the helm of the ruling party’s emergency council. In doing so, she has begun the biggest game of her life. Park’s task should not be limited to saving the party. If she wants to prove her devotion to both the party as well as the country, she should initiate a sweeping reform of politics in Korea. She needs to declare that she will be the first to put an end to the time-honored vices of our political class and start anew. She should proclaim her own version of Roh Tae-woo’s June 29 declaration in 1987.

Of course, Park is not yet a presidential candidate. In fact, the primaries for the presidential election have not even begun. Nevertheless, Park is the overwhelming frontrunner and is at the center of public attention. Many citizens want to know what difference she can make if she is elected president. Is it too much to ask her to promise the following?

First, Park should pledge the drastic measure of an investigation into corruption scandals of the administration. The office of senior secretary to the president for civil affairs has limits on its monitoring of the family and friends of the president. The office has limited human resources, and the Blue House may feel that they’re all on the same side. Therefore, there has to be a special agency or organization to supervise investigations into corruption. Park may want to consider a special prosecution team headed by an independence counsel.

Secondly, she needs to end the so-called “parachute” appointments of administration favorites into plum positions. In the early days of the Lee Myung-bak administration, the “parachute” appointments were as numerous as the appointments based on personal, academic, religious and regional connections. Those who helped in Lee’s election campaign floated down into key spots in government agencies and public corporations. The civil servants decided that nothing had changed with the new administration and abandoned their respect for the newly appointed heads.

Parachuted leaders aren’t known for fairness or efficiency. Park Geun-hye must declare that she will end the practice of parachute appointments and favoritism for cronies. She should promise to not distribute positions as rewards and restrict her appointments to demonstrably competent individuals. Of course, that will lead to fewer people signing up to get involved in the election campaign. But that’s okay: she can utilize the official party organization for the campaign.

Thirdly, she needs to reshuffle her closest group of aides. She should weed out the yes men and bring in people with backbone who know how to say no to their boss. Park is surrounded by people who helped her in the unsuccessful 2007 primary, who survived the 2008 “massacre” and who have stayed with her for the last four years. She must have special feelings for them. They may deserve her trust as they have shown devotion.

However, if Park wants to become chief executive, she should get over her sentimental feelings. Muddy water has begun to rise around Park. Ambitious people want to take advantage of her future power and win her favor. People who have a talent for approaching families of the powerful are trying to get close to her. She must be wary of them and, instead, look for innovative and reform-minded talents with broad perspectives.

Fourthly, Park should get rid of inefficient and backward political practices. Park supposedly advocates a fresh approach to politics, but she is still trapped in the past in many ways. When she leaves the country or returns from a trip, dozens of representatives go to the airport to welcome her or send her off. It’s fair to assume that lawmakers have better things to do than waiting for Park in VIP rooms. It’s a waste of time and a kind of feudal throwback. No influential politician in a developed country would tolerate such a meaningless, backward custom. She should order people to stay away from the airport. She can’t be so vulnerable to feel that she needs to show off her power in that way.

Park continues to boast of her power even when she obviously has the upper hand. The flashy book launches of politicians have a similar purpose. Park knows very well how serious publishing is and yet how superficial these events are. Park should tell politicians to go back to their essential jobs: to study politics and work on the affairs of state.

Whether she becomes a presidential candidate or not, Park could make an important contribution to political reform by making these four pledges. If she actually comes to the power and translates them into action, Korean society will be transformed.

The key to a new regime is change. When Park is different from the past administration, the citizens will be energized. But those citizens will only be convinced when the people, practices and policies truly change.

Nobody will be moved if the next administration is no different from the last despite its promises about the economy, welfare, growth and education.

If Park achieves half the revolution her father accomplished, she will be remembered as a political success.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin

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