Communication matters

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Communication matters

President Park Geun-hye holds her New Year’s press conference today - her first in the 10 months since her inauguration.

U.S. presidents typically give 10 to 15 press conferences per year, not including brief conversations with the media 30 to 150 times a year. The sharp gap testifies to our president’s lack of direct communication with the people. If she really wants to make up for the loss, President Park must first widen the scope of subjects and deepen the depth of her answers to questions from reporters.

The press meeting will be centered on diplomacy, security and the economy. The president has to deal with a wide range of issues, including her government’s handling of Japan, the possibility of provocations from the North and effective ways to cope with it, economic woes despite signs of an economic rebound in the United States, and the reform of corruption-ridden public corporations.

But the press conference must also focus on how to address the conflicts within her government that substantially weaken her ability to deal with challenges.

The president must address never-ending suspicions over the National Intelligence Service’s online smear campaigns during the presidential election, the opaque appointment procedure she has employed for government posts, a stubborn approach to governance, the blind faith she places in those loyal to her, and repeated “parachute appointments” for state-run corporations that contradict her pledge to revamp the corporate sector. The people are waiting for straightforward answers to those thorny but important questions.

The way the president answers the press corps’ inquiries also counts. If she stops short of reaching the crux of a matter or ends up spouting political rhetoric, the public’s doubts will still remain intact. The president has no reason to answer questions in an unclear, half-hearted manner if she has confidence in the administration itself.

No president is perfect. She cannot give perfect answers to all questions. So President Park could take a tip from her father, Park Chung Hee, who let his ministers in charge answer reporters’ questions in more detail. The people are not disappointed by an imperfect president, but by an incommucative president. Even if she lacks the ability to express her ideas, people will support a president who firmly believes in the righteousness of her moral and philosophical convictions. A good example is former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who is still respected for his unwavering faith in his own convictions. Reagan was not a man of extensive knowledge, but his unflinching self-confidence and principles earned him the title “the Great Communicator.”

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