Don’t hurry, President Park

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Don’t hurry, President Park

People can see the real faces of political leaders at times of crisis. President Park Geun-hye showed a strong image at such moments. In October 1979, when her father President Park Chung Hee was assassinated, she resolutely yet calmly took care of the tense demilitarized zone while playing her role as first lady, which she assumed after her mother’s earlier assassination. In 2004, when then-opposition Grand National Party faced a crisis before the general election, or in 2005, when she experienced a terrorist attack, she stood firm. Even when North Korea abruptly shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex last year, she forced North Korea to make a volte-face on that decision.

But she has changed since the April 16 Sewol ferry tragedy. She tried to find a way to address the crisis of trust by revamping her government, which would obviously meet resistance, and by calling for long consultations with experts. In a statement on May 19, however, the president hurriedly declared a map of a government revamp without full preparation.

As expected, confusion arose. Her original ideas of establishing an administrative reform agency and revamping the Ministry of Security and Public Administration changed in less than 10 days. The president also vowed to create a post of deputy prime minister for education, who would also handle social, cultural, environmental and health issues, which is patently impossible. That’s why that post disappeared in the Lee Myung-bak administration.

Her choice of former Supreme Court justice Ahn Dae-hee to be prime minister was also made hastily. The Blue House should have checked his background. We can hardly avoid the impression that she hurriedly chose Ahn to get through the current crisis by taking advantage of his clean and stern image ahead of the June 4 local elections. But he wasn’t clean enough after all.

Despite the Sewol tragedy, we can overcome the crisis if the president approaches it with composure. She must look back on how she has weathered past crises. She must talk with many people, including those who have different views. People will wait with patience.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 30, Page 30

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