Reaching out to the people
President Park Geun-hye on Monday will give an annual New Year’s address to outline policies on the economy, North Korea and other affairs in her third year in office. She will be taking questions from the press for the second time since January last year. The media-shy president has chosen not to hold press conferences despite major and controversial incidents last year, including her series of appointment flops and the Sewol ferry disaster.
Instead, she expressed herself through statements or comments during cabinet and presidential meetings. Because she delivered her thoughts unilaterally through the mouthpiece of others instead of directly communicating with the public, she has drawn criticism for being uncommunicative and aloof. Starting 2015 with a televised press conference as she enters the halfway mark in her five-year term is a positive sign that she is willing to connect with the people.
Since she has decided to face the people, she should make the press conference a meaningful opportunity to clearly answer questions and address suspicions. First, she should be honest about the scandal over her former and incumbent aides and about their behind-the-scenes meddling in state affairs using the president’s confidence in them. The prosecution has concluded that Chung Yoon-hoi, a former aide to the president, did not work with three of her aides in the Blue House or interfere in appointments and state affairs.
But the people are not convinced. She must answer to the suspicions and plea for understanding. She must not shrug off the incident as much ado about nothing. Her people have been directly and indirectly involved in the case. She must pledge to set the house in order.
The president has promised to reform economic fundamentals, the labor market and public employees’ pensions. She has shown she is willing to push ahead with her economic agenda. Reform is painful. It is not possible unless the people understand and cooperate. In her New Year’s address, she must reach out to the people, explain the goals of her policies and muster the support to push them ahead.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 8, Page 34