Post lashing out at Park erupts across the Internet

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Post lashing out at Park erupts across the Internet

An online post made Sunday morning on the Blue House’s free bulletin board that demanded President Park Geun-hye step down in the wake of the Sewol ferry disaster attracted more than 500,000 viewers in just 24 hours.

The upload lashed out at what it called her lack of leadership, responsibility and remorse over the accident, which has left nearly 200 dead and more than 110 missing since the ship capsized April 16 in waters off the country’s southwestern coast.

The site was briefly paralyzed after receiving three times the usual amount of traffic, and the Korean term for Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae) topped the list of the 10 most-searched words on Naver, the nation’s most popular search engine, for hours at a time yesterday.

Probably overwhelmed by the fanatical reaction to the post, titled “The reason you should not be president,” its uploader known by family name Chung deleted it yesterday morning.

However, it was widely circulated throughout cyberspace, including on Twitter and other social media, by those frustrated with President Park and the government’s poor handling of the accident - an issue that has made its way into news stories worldwide.

But in an unexpected turn of events, the Blue House said yesterday in a briefing that Chung had called to confess that the post had been copied and pasted from someone else’s Facebook account and had asked for its removal. The original writer, it turned out later in the day, was Park Sung-mi, an obscure documentary producer who ran her post on the Blue House’s free bulletin board on her own in the evening.

An official in charge of the home page replied to Chung over email, saying that only the writer could delete the post. It became invisible on the board as of 11 a.m. yesterday.

“It appears the writer of the post deleted it on [his or her] own,” said Blue House spokesman Min Kyung-wook.

According to Min, false accusations that surfaced online claiming that the Blue House was behind the post’s disappearance had prompted the presidential office to hold a press briefing over a single post.

News of the incident released during the day prompted more people to visit the Blue House site, and hundreds of additional posts were made afterward. Reactions on whether President Park was properly coping with the disaster, which has led to the deaths of nearly 200 high school students, were mostly mixed. Many uploads demanded she apologize.

The presidential office is currently debating when Park should issue her apology as nearly two weeks have passed since the accident.

The pressure has only increased since Prime Minister Chung Hong-won tendered his resignation over the weekend, apologizing to the public on behalf of the government for failing to properly deal with the accident and coordinate recovery efforts.

Park immediately approved his exit on condition that he step down only after the crisis has concluded.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy submitted a resolution to the National Assembly yesterday urging the president to apologize.

“The government, which is supposed to be looking after the well-being of its people and resolving the situation in the wake of the accident, has forfeited its duties,” the resolution stated. “We urge the president to deliver a sincere apology and to do her best at patching things up.”

A few lesser-known lawmakers with the ruling Saenuri Party have also cautiously brought up the need for Park to make an official address.

Some believe she should have apologized in Jindo, South Jeolla, when she visited the gymnasium where families of the dead and missing have been camped out since the disaster, awaiting news of their loved ones. At the time, the president said she had “no idea of what kind of words of condolence I should deliver.”

She also remarked that all government officials who do not carry out what is expected of them “should take responsibility and step down.” Those comments have since led many to wonder why she did not perceive herself, Korea’s commander in chief, as one of those government officials.

When asked by reporters if President Park intends to apologize on April 21, Min, the Blue House spokesman, said rescue efforts should come before an apology.

Some in the political sphere and media have speculated that she may apologize today at the regularly scheduled cabinet meeting, though some Blue House officials have said it is highly likely to be after a new prime minister is appointed - mid-May at the earliest.

“The public apology should not be merely about President Park bowing her head but about presenting a long-term vision on how to better transform the country,” said an official from the presidential office.

With the exception of Park’s predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, all of Korea’s last three presidents have issued apologies for national tragedies that resulted in an enormous number of casualties less than nine days after they occurred.

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]




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