Time for a national revampThe July 30 by-elections are over. Our politicians spent the two months since the June 4 local elections attacking the government for its lethargic response to the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster. The by-elections for 15 seats at the National Assembly must serve as new momentum for a national revamp as no large-scale election will be held for the next 21 months, until the general elections in 2016.
President Park Geun-hye has made preparations for the remainder of her term, which expires in February 2018. She reshuffled the cabinet before Wednesday’s by-elections and is pressing ahead with policies aimed at resuscitating the economy after appointing Choi Kyung-hwan, former floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, as deputy prime minister for the economy and finance minister. Park, now on vacation, will draw a blueprint for national revitalization by revisiting her unceasing appointments fiasco and the Sewol tragedy. As both the ruling and opposition parties will be engrossed in heated campaigns for the December 2017 presidential election after the 2016 general elections, she has only 21 months left for national governance.
The president still faces daunting challenges in security, diplomacy, the economy and society. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will most likely provoke the South through missile and nuclear threats. To prepare for unexpected contingencies, Park must reinforce cooperation with China while at the same time consolidating existing ties with the United States and Japan. To achieve the goal of reinventing the nation, Park must improve her governance and mend the appointment system.
The administration’s instability can lead to overheated contests for power between mainstream and splinter groups in the ruling party. If the Saenuri is swept up in such inner conflict, the government will face a massive crisis. The ruling party must help the administration by persuading the opposition to support its policies.
No doubt the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy must watch and criticize any government irregularities, as exposed by the maritime tragedy. But much of the disaster already went through tests - two elections and investigations by the prosecution, legislators and the Board of Audit and Inspection. The NPAD now needs to cooperate with the government in wrapping up the case and devising measures to avoid such man-made calamities. President Park must put the Sewol disaster behind her and achieve the goal of a national revamp and economic recovery. Without political leadership, however, the nation cannot move on.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 31, Page 30