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Try a team of rivals

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Lee Ha-kyung

On August 31, 2010, President Barack Obama declared the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq in a live, televised address to his nation. While many people denounced President George W. Bush’s war and the burden it put on America, Obama had been free from criticism over the war. “It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset,” Obama said. “Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I’ve said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hopes for Iraqis’ future.” His 18-minute address united Americans.

Korea desperately needs any kind of gesture that is able to turn discord into accord. President Obama would say, “There were patriots who supported my administration, and patriots who opposed it. The election is over now, and I will be one with all the patriots.” President Park Geun-hye can say the same. She has made six apologies and shed televised tears in the wake of the Sewol ferry disaster. But she has to show sincerity beyond rhetoric and showmanship. Only then can she bring the nation together.

Sincerity comes from action. President Obama proved it. When he was elected, he had Robert Gates, who led the war in Iraq during the Bush administration, continue to serve as secretary of defense. Obama named David Petraeus, who was supported by Republicans, as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. When Obama was running for president, he joked that if Republicans had good ideas, he’d have no trouble stealing such good ideas regardless of where they came from. And he lived by those words. His choice for defense secretary in his second term was former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. He also named James Comey, a Republican who served as deputy attorney general in the Bush administration, as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In the Democratic primary of 2008, he was in intense competition against Hillary Clinton. But once he became president, he named her secretary of state. He accepted her demand to be able to meet him one-on-one at any time and gave her appointment rights within the State Department. Hillary Clinton became the second most powerful person in the Obama administration. Obama’s words had the power of unity and integration thanks to his bipartisan administration of the state.

There is only one way for Park to get Korea out of its crisis of division. She needs to reshuffle her cabinet to bring in competent figures, including as prime minister. She needs to reach out to rivals from the past and opposition figures. Until now, she has shown limited leadership. After she has been criticized for giving people from legal backgrounds and the Geyongsang region key posts, she once again nominated former Supreme Court Justice Ahn Dae-hee, who is from Geyongsang, as prime minister. The Blue House failed to consider that Ahn had been paid 1.6 billion won ($1.56 million) for five months of work following his retirement from the court. The nomination was made right after Park herself promised the eradication of cozy ties between industries and former government bigwigs. National Assembly Speaker Kang Chang-hee lamented, “Even military regimes made regional considerations when making appointments.” Former Grand National Party lawmaker Choe Byung-yul said, “Park changed after she entered the Blue House. She is fearful.” Kang and Choi are members of the Group of Seven Seniors, who helped win the election of President Park. Park’s style is the opposite of Obama’s bipartisanship.

Park said that she is looking for a prime minister “whom the nation deems suitable for the task of national reform.” What the people want as prime minister may be different from what she has in mind. We desperately want someone who understands some devastating realities that the president fails to notice. The referee of a football match is a commander who rules the game. However, the linesmen are the ones who call offside violations. It is not because the linesmen have better judgment. They are better positioned to spot offsides. A proper division of duties can make people more comfortable. Chapter I Article II of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea states, “The sovereignty of the Republic of Korea shall reside in the people, and all state authority shall emanate from the people.” The president has been delegated her power from the citizens, and she needs to follow the will of the people.

Let’s look back at what Park said in July 2004, when she was an opposition leader. “The leadership of the development era when Korea’s economy was one of the lowest in the world is different from leadership in the post-Cold War information era of the 21st century after we accomplished the economic development and democratization. If the government tries to lead everything, it interferes with economic and social development.” If Park was able to rewind her mind 10 years to when she saw the situation more clearly, she would be able to solve our problems easily. She needs to utilize the patriotism of those who don’t agree with her. Not everyone thinks the same. If the president can’t change others, she should change herself. It is the way to win by losing. A great commander loses smaller battles but wins the war.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 4, Page 27

*The author is a chief editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Ha-kyung



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