Presidents need vacations, too

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Presidents need vacations, too


President Park Geun-hye is on a five-day summer vacation, which started July 29. The vacations of the past presidents suggest four customs that the leader should do away with.

First, the idea that Korean leaders are workaholics who do not take proper breaks should dissolve. President Park is taking time off for the first time since her inauguration in February. If the President is so reluctant to take a vacation, how can she expect to encourage the domestic service industry?

The custom of not leaving Korea for vacation also does not suit global standards. Western leaders often cross their borders. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair used to take his family to Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town on the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. It is no coincidence that Blair is now serving as part of a Middle East peace envoy.

France is a popular destination for vacation, but former French President Nicolas Sarkozy went on vacation to the United States. The rule of reciprocity works here. In a global era, why would others come to us when we don’t visit them? It is regrettable that Prime Minister Chung Hong-won said on Monday that public servants should spend their summer vacations at a domestic destination to boost domestic consumption. While his focus on domestic consumption is understandable, such an obvious and direct approach is not help much.

Perhaps, we can learn from Danish Queen Margrethe II. A few years ago, a photographer captured her carrying a shopping basket and waiting in line in front of a farmers market stand, wearing a short-sleeve shirt and sandals. She was spending her vacation in the country village of Cahors in southwest France. Are you more attracted to the small French village where the queen stayed temporarily or to the country that produced such a down-to-earth and free-spirited queen?

The habit of cramming reading is another undesirable habit. When you try to put all of your eggs in one basket, you can end up cracking them. We all know cramming doesn’t work.

The biggest problem is that the president often announces a cabinet reshuffle or administrative blueprint for the second half of the year immediately after the vacation. If the president is making such plans during her vacation, she must not be getting any rest. It is absurd to use a vacation as an extension of work to plan and catch up with overdue tasks. The president may feel fulfilled working around the clock, but we all feel really bad. It may have been a virtue in the past, but citizens now feel anxious if the Blue House schedule does not allow for a proper vacation. Vacations are a time to take a break, not a time for more work.

President Park surely has a full plate of pending issues, from the Kaesong Industrial Complex issue to personnel decisions. However, these issues should be handled before and after the vacation. They are serious topics to take on vacation, but she needs to relax and rest. Taking time off from work is also a sign of political strength and leadership.

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

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