Totally out of touch

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Totally out of touch


President Park Geun-hye is in the midst of her greatest crisis. Her approval ratings according to Realmeter is at 33.2 percent, the lowest since she took office in early 2013. She is being hit by fallout from the scandal in the Blue House over a confidential internal report on behind-the-scene string-pulling, disappointment with her New Year’s press conference, and disgruntlement over a change in the tax policy that has wiped out many people’s tax refunds for this year. The government and ruling party responded very weakly to the public outcry over the higher tax bills. There have been less important but still embarrassing gaffes. In outlining plans for the new year, the Ministry of National Defense came up with the laughable coinage of “creative defense” - obviously to please the president, who likes the term “creative.”

Park’s government is in its third year. It must show some progress in policies on North Korea, security and economic reforms. The low public approval ratings may dampen its drive to push them forward. It shouldn’t. The president and her government must recover public confidence before it is too late. It needs a turning point as dramatic as the June 29, 1987, declaration of then-President Chun Doo Hwan and his successor-in-designate Roh Tae-woo to revise the Constitution and pave the way for direct elections of the president.

The biggest problem with an incumbent government is that it is out of touch with the public and is clueless as to what concerns or angers the people. The president, her aides, cabinet and party members aren’t living in the same world as the masses. The president does business in her presidential office with just two of her closest aides nearby. She returns home to a large residence in which she lives alone. The White House, 10 Downing Street and the German Chancellery are all symbols of government policies and leadership. They are places where government heads, aides and officials discuss state affairs frankly at any time of day. The Korean leadership, on the other hand, keeps its distance. Part of its administration was sent miles away from the capital and the president and her presidential staff seem to operate separately. The president must do something about connectivity.

The presidential chief of staff should be the middleman between the president and the people. The newly created special advisory board should have a different role from the presidential staff. The advisers should strictly stick to a tutorial role. In 1987, the presidential office succumbed to the public’s demands. Today’s president should, too.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 23, Page 30

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