The lessons from MB’s apologyPresident Lee Myung-bak apologized for the corruption scandals tied to his relatives and aides yesterday. In his fifth public apology since his inauguration in 2008, Lee lamented a chain of “heartbreaking events” while he strived for a cleaner government. His attribution of all those problems to his carelessness reveals a wide gap between his goals and his end results.
If the president had possessed a strong will, he would have put it into action through unremitting vigilance throughout his term, including the period from his party nomination to election day. Choi See-joong, former chairman of the Korea Communications Commission, said he used money he had received from a real estate developer in funding Lee’s presidential campaign. A savings bank executive - who kicked back cash to Lee Sang-deuk, the president’s elder brother - told prosecutors that he used the money to subsidize Lee’s campaign for president, which suggests a seed of corruption began to sprout even before the primary.
Lee’s post-inauguration period is no exception. If the president had dissuaded his brother from running for a seat in the National Assembly again, sternly warned his aides against corruption and activated surveillance systems through inspection agencies, he could have averted the misfortunes.
The president didn’t apologize for the controversy over the Blue House’s arbitrary intervention in the illegal surveillance of civilians critical of the administration, not to mention the presidential office’s involvement in purchasing his post-retirement residence in southern Seoul at low prices. He could be excused for these incidents given that the two irregularities will go through an Assembly probe and an investigation by an independent counsel, respectively. Yet Lee’s apology is incomplete. We may need another apology from him before his term expires next February.
When the president stood in front of the cameras, five presidential contenders of the ruling Saenuri Party were undergoing a television debate. Not only them but also eight presidential bidders of the opposition Democratic United Party - and dark horse Ahn Cheol-soo - must remember the scene. Some of them already drew our attention owing to their potential ties to their relatives’ suspicious dealings. Candidates must present detailed plans to curb corruption among their relatives and friends. No one wants to see a presidential apology again.