Governing on more than a promise

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Governing on more than a promise

President-elect Park Geun-hye reiterated her strong determination to push ahead with campaign promises. While receiving a report from the economic subcommittee of the presidential transition team, she said, “If we are determined and strong, we can accomplish everything we set out to do,” brushing aside suggestions for revision and reconsideration. “When I promise something, you have to achieve it,” she repeatedly said to members of the transition team.

Her eagerness is laudable considering that Korean politics is so broken and politicians often simply ignore their own promises. But we cannot understand why a state leader has to go on repeating herself. It’s important to prove that promises are feasible, too. Various promises from the campaign have not been thoroughly studied and tested.

It is also unclear what needs to be done first. There are many plans that are contradictory, and financing is also a mystery. If the platforms are not finalized, they cannot simply be implemented. If projects are pushed ahead on mere eagerness, various negative outcomes could arise and cost the state financial damage and credibility.

Park’s emphasis on keeping her promises could, in fact, turn into a burden and a threat to the government’s reputation. Every word uttered by a leader carries significant weight. Few from the transition committee, government and Saenuri Party dare to suggest revisions or moderation of Park’s campaign pledges due to the president-elect’s attitude. Few raise their voices in opposition to Park. A comment like “When I promise, you have to keep it” is now an order that carries an authoritative tone. As a result, some now fear that the president-elect will come to be known for arrogance and high-handedness.

The president is the top executive of the state whose highest priority should be protection of life and property. It is also important to improve living standards for the people and better their lives.

Under this principle, the president would have to moderate - or compromise - on campaign promises if doing so is in the best interest of the people. A strong commitment to honoring promises is certainly virtuous, but it would be unfortunate if the administration felt overly constrained by what was said during the campaign.

Under the general principle of integrity of political officials, Park must study the feasibility of each pledge and list them in order of priority with committee experts and government officials in order to turn them into a workable and practical set of policies.
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