The return of President ParkWhat moment did you realize that a new administration has taken power? The live broadcast of the inauguration was all over TV, and made it seem real for many. In my case, the change sunk in when I heard people referring to “President Park” when I turned on the news in the morning. We all knew that President-elect Park would soon be President Park. But when I heard it on the news, it felt a bit strange. Strange, but not unfamiliar.
Older Koreans are already accustomed to a President Park. In fact, that was a household name from when I was a child until I went to college. After Park Chung Hee was assassinated on Oct. 26, 1979, the last names of the presidents have been: Chun, Roh, Kim, Kim, Roh and Lee. As time passed, President Park gradually faded into history. But on Feb. 25, after 34 years, it came back.
The military-green coat that President Park Geun-hye wore at the inauguration reminded us of the former President Park. In her 2007 autobiography, “Despairs Strengthen Me, Hopes Move Me,” she discusses her memories of military green.
“There were things that I didn’t like about my father being a soldier. I still have a vivid memories of military green pants. My mother used to re-tailor my father’s old military uniform pants to make pants for me. I always had a short bob haircut and wore ugly military green pants. I hated wearing those pants.”
Some fashion experts have said that her coat wasn’t actually military green, but rather the very sophisticated “artemisia green with yellow undertones.” But I believe she wanted to inspire memories of her father with her inauguration outfit, however reticent she was to wear those pants as a young girl over 50 years ago.
Park Geun-hye cannot separate herself from the traces of her father. As many still consider Park Chung Hee to be one of the nation’s best presidents despite his authoritarian tendencies, she has no choice but to amplify his glories and remove the shadows that he left.
In her biography, Park also wrote about a dream she had when she was a college student. “Angry waves were surging onto the coast. I sought shelter with other people under a lighthouse. Then, suddenly, the scene changed, and I was standing on a wide road. The sun was rising over a hill on the other side, and it was a bright, blazing sun.”
No one knows if the “angry waves” symbolize her life so far or the challenges to come. But we all sincerely hope that she will lead the Republic of Korea into bright daylight and toward a wide open future.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun