Things Park must doPark Geun-hye was elected presidential candidate of the Saenuri Party at its national convention yesterday. With the ruling party’s candidate decided four months before the election, some uncertainties about the presidential race were partly eliminated. Park’s nomination will likely provide an interesting contest between a female and male candidate for the first time, which will be recorded as one of the most remarkable characteristics of the upcoming election since the democratic election of presidents resumed in 1987.
If elected, Park will also be the first second-generation president for Korea. Her father, Park Chung Hee, took power in 1961 through a coup, and his legacy is the building of the Korean economy and its industries. At the same time, however, Park has to struggle with her father’s negative legacy: his authoritarian rule.
In an acceptance speech at her party’s convention, Park declared that she will start an era of national integration with the goal of creating a harmonious Korea beyond its achievements in industrialization and democratization. She has also exhibited a strong will to put an end to political corruption by introducing a special surveillance system to oversee potential corruption among her relatives and aides - or by appointing a standing independent counsel if necessary. Regarding enduring suspicions over the nomination-for-money scandal for proportional representatives in the April general election, she said, “My heart is shattered simply by the suspicion. I will establish a special unit for a colossal revamp of the political culture as the first step as president.”
Her pronouncement appears to have reflected her distress over how to shore up her image as a righteous politician, which was considerably tarnished in the process of the primary. She excluded her rivals - Chung Mong-joon and Lee Jae-oh - from talks to fix the nomination rules. After a group of non-Park candidates raised an objection to her rules, she insulted them. She also fell short of assuaging public suspicion over corruption in nominations. That ended up as a remarkable failure of promoting the convention as seen by a meager voting rate of 40 percent, compared to 71 percent in 2007. An almost ridiculous 86.3 percent of the votes went to her.
Park’s next challenge is putting her promises into action. She must launch political reform to return nomination rights to the people.