Trust is the real issue in French politics

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Trust is the real issue in French politics


Fleur Pellerin has become the first ethnic Korean to rise to a ministerial-level post in France, and the news recently had local media in a frenzy. But frankly, it is shameful to celebrate the success of an ethnic Korean who was given up for adoption in the manner that we have. It is imprudent to associate her with Korea just because she was born in the country. She is French to the bone.

Pellerin passed her baccalaureate, a French secondary school diploma that gives qualification to enter higher education, at age 16, two years ahead of her peers. She graduated from three of the prestigious and selective institutes of higher education.

When Korean media report on these successes, they project a sense of ethnic superiority. But would she have succeeded politically if she had lived in Korea? The most newsworthy aspect of her appointment is how it reflects the cultural tolerance and fair educational system of France, which is known for its respect for diversity.

It is equally silly to highlight the fact that Francois Hollande’s cabinet has an equal number of men and women. Seven of the 15 ministers for departing president Nicolas Sarkozy were also women. And in Northern Europe, female statesmen fill more than 50 percent of the high-ranking positions.

What’s more notable in the Hollande government is a professional ethics charter that was developed for ministers. All 34 ministers in his new cabinet began their jobs by signing the ethics pledge, which calls for transparency and fairness in the name of public service.

Cabinet members now must entrust their financial assets to an approved management institution and give any gift worth more than 150 euros ($191) to the government. They also are forbidden from participating in any for-profit or nonprofit activities related to their positions.

Sarkozy was criticized for failing to distinguish clearly enough between private and public matters and for wasting the national budget. In Hollande’s first cabinet meeting, the wages of the president and the ministers were cut by 30 percent.

By learning from the failure of his predecessor, Hollande and his ministers are determined to set a new example. All administrations begin enthusiastically at first, so the real question is whether the new president will keep his promises to regain the public trust.

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

by Bae Myung-bok
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