Change and the presidentPresident Park Geun-hye will soon make a statement with regard to the Sewol ferry tragedy. She will take the opportunity to apologize for the government’s lethargic response to the capsizing of the ship and announce plans to punish those in charge as well as reinforce the nation’s overall safety culture.
Korea is in a serious crisis after the ferry’s sinking laid bare the soft underbelly of our society: deep-rooted malpractices born of corruption and greed. This dreadful reality - coupled with the shocking deaths of hundreds of high school students - has led to a collective distrust of the government and deep concerns about a prolonged economic slowdown.
It seems the government doesn’t quite know what to do. Would stern punishment of irresponsible officials cut through the Gordian knot of disgust and rage or is the establishment of a national safety board needed to turn around this crisis? And how to dissolve the age-old connections between government officials and industries? The president is at the center of the crisis, and the buck stops at the Blue House.
The president must take the lead in reforming the nation. A massive reinvention of the government was possible thanks to President Kim Young-sam’s spearheading of such a daunting challenge. The successful recovery from the 1997 Asian financial crisis owed much to President Kim Dae-jung. President Park’s post-disaster management and governance of the nation must be inspired by these past makeovers of the nation.
The president must change first. Despite the criticisms of her revolving-door appointments and her critical lack of communication skills, she nevertheless stuck to her own beliefs. The president must change her appointments style and pick reform-minded people to serve her. If she hires talented people from the opposition camp, it will help her get their cooperation, too.
The president must honor the National Assembly and listen to what the opposition and civic groups are calling for. Reinvention of the nation is impossible with a group of ministers who only write down what she preaches. It will be a long and tough job to cure such a case of national malaise. But if she demonstrates an unflinching determination to lead the country toward a better future, people will rally behind her, and the opposition will, too. That’s what a loyal opposition is all about.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 15, Page 34