The memoir controversy

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The memoir controversy

The memoir “The President’s Time” by former President Lee Myung-bak has pitted the current and previous governments, led by members of the same conservative party, against each other. The Blue House became upset at what Lee described as President Park Geun-hye’s motive for opposing then-President Lee’s plan to scrap the relocation of the central government to Sejong City. According to the memoir, Park was believed to have joined the campaign to oppose Lee’s reversal of the plan to move the government to a new administrative city of Sejong, as promised by his predecessor Roh Moo-hyun, because she did not want then-Prime Minister Chung Un-chan, who was spearheading the move, to get in the way of her presidential ambitions. A senior staffer of President Park said the book, when understood from the political point of view, would do little to help national unity. A staffer from the Blue House under Lee retorted that no president needs permission to write a book. Members of the incumbent and former administrations are waging an uncomfortable war of recriminations.

It is no secret that the current and previous presidents have never been friends. Since they vied in a primary for presidential candidacy in the 2007 election, which Lee ended up winning, the two clashed over election nominations and major issues like the Sejong City plan. But the exchange of arguments among former and current presidential staffers is a different story. The incumbent government is already in trouble with the president’s approval rating nosediving. It needs all the help it can get within the ruling party to push ahead with necessary reforms.

According to a recent poll, Park’s approval rating is at 29 percent, the lowest ever. The public has become disappointed in her amid inconsistencies and disappointments. The government seems to get nothing right these days, from the fiasco over changes to the tax code, the reversal of a plan to revise health insurance premiums and hikes in residential and car ownership taxes.

Impotent leadership has weighed down a public already pained from a prolonged economic slowdown. Yet the government and ruling party fail to unite or cooperate. Lee’s memoir also exposed sensitive matters about North Korea and foreign affairs. Political motivations are suspected considering the obvious repercussions from revealing behind-the-scenes stories. But it was wrong for the Blue House to criticize the former president, By doing so, the content of the book has snowballed into a bigger political issue.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 31, Page 30
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