A presidential psychoanalysis

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A presidential psychoanalysis

“Leonardo da Vinci, A Memory of His Childhood” is an essay by Sigmund Freud, known as the father of psychoanalysis. Freud has valued this work as one of his best.

In the essay - a study on the artist’s life as seen through his paintings - Freud provides a psychoanalytical interpretation of one of Leonardo’s masterpieces, “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne.”

According to Freud, the artwork can be found to contain faint memories Leonardo had from his childhood.

From Freud’s point of view, the Virgin’s garment takes the shape of a vulture when it is viewed sideways. According to Freud, Leonardo expressed the fantasy in which his lip was attacked by the tail of the vulture when he was lying in his crib as an infant.

Freud claimed that the painting expressed the Oedipus complex between the mother - in this case, represented by a vulture - and her son.

This controversial interpretation is the origin of psychohistory. And in this study, id and ego as well as the superego - like the lessons in childhood we learn from our parents and teachers - are applied to historical figures to find answers to present societal issues.

In the 1970s, American historian Bruce Mazlish published “In Search of Nixon: A Psychohistorical Inquiry,” an analysis of Richard Nixon as a person and as a politician.

In his work, Mazlish examined Nixon’s childhood and how it corresponded with who he became as an adult. After witnessing the deaths of his siblings during his adolescence, Nixon became captivated by the fear of death.

When his mother left the family for two years to go to Arizona to care for his older brother, who had tuberculosis, the teen ended up feeling betrayed, and his father’s repeated failures in running the family gas station and a lemon farm left Nixon with a constant sense of dread.

He often worried that he, too, was destined to be a disappointment.

He was a lone boy and dreamed about traveling around the country by becoming a locomotive engineer. Later, as an adult, he didn’t trust anyone but himself and his wife.

President Nixon allowed a group of faithful confidants from California to fill up key posts in his White House. But those moves, however, eventually led to the Watergate scandal, resulting in Nixon becoming the first American president to ever resign from office.

We can apply a similar psychoanalytic judgment to President Park Geun-hye. Her New Year’s address brought about a furious aftermath. The public expected her to elaborate on her plans to remove Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon - who is accused of having failed to recommend proper candidates for high-profile positions and manipulating state affairs - as well as her three long-time aides.

And yet, Park has passionately defended them and publicly declared twice now that she has no reason to replace her secretaries. As a result, the three men have become more powerful and influential than ever.

But there are many, more talented people who could replace the trio, so why is she so obsessed with keeping them? The easiest answer is found in psychoanalysis.

Her memoir, published in 2007, actually provides ample resources to make such a judgment.

Park lost her mother after she was assassinated by North Korea sympathizer from Japan. Her father’s murder, on the other hand, was carried out by a long-time friend and ally. It’s no surprise, then, that she is deeply distrustful.

After leaving the Blue House to live in Sindang-dong, central Seoul, Park wrote about how attitudes had changed.

“It was quite a shock to me that the people who were closest to my father had grown so cold,” she wrote.

“The people around us left one after another, and me and my siblings seemed to disappear into the mists of history as the world turned away from us. … The people easily changed sides without clear beliefs. There was no trust, and shallow calculations were rampant,” she adds.

Her book is flooded with examples making clear her distrust for others.

But that means that she will be unwaveringly trustful toward those she was once familiar with . That is the only convincing explanation for Park’s attitude toward her chief of staff and her three key aides.

But she is the president of this country and the public demands a complete overhaul of the Blue House secretariat. A president must not be shaken by shallow public opinion, and it is wrong to ignore such sentiment.

After leaving her office at the end of the day, Park must spend her down time reflecting on herself.

Only when she can look at herself properly will she be able to see that there are, in fact, talented people outside the Blue House.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 16, Page 31


*The author is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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