Park must face the music

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Park must face the music

President Park Geun-hye is currently receiving the worst-ever blow to her reputation during her third year in office. It was shaken when the Sewol ferry sank a year ago, but that was a national tragedy rather than being her own fault. But the bombshell whistle-blowing by the former head of Keangnam Enterprises, who claimed before he committed suicide that he had bribed politicians close to the president, aims directly at the heart of her power. If the scandal points to suspicious funding activities during the 2007 primary and the 2012 presidential elections, she will inevitably be hurt. The public response could be entirely different from past controversies over flawed appointments or the so-called memogate, which involved her close secretaries and brother. This is a life-or-death matter for the president.

There is only one way to deal with a major crisis. Using political tactics to avoid the problem will only make it worse. Former presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung saw their sons indicted and sent to prison for trying to cover up their misconducts. Their actions left a lasting scar on their administrations. Former President Roh Moo-hyun was able to weather a scandal because he agreed to probe into presidential election funding.

Days have passed since Sung was discovered dead. Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the Saenuri Party, has demanded a thorough investigation and prosecutors have organized a special investigation team. The case involves former and incumbent chief presidential secretaries, the prime minister, and political heavyweights who are close to the president. It is the biggest scandal ever to involve the president’s inner circle. The president, however, is keeping silent. She will leave the country for a trip to four Latin American countries on Thursday, the day that marks the first anniversary of the Sewol ferry disaster. If she handles the controversy poorly or in her usually aloof or stoical way, she could lose public trust entirely as well as the impetus to push ahead with future agendas.

The president must face the music. She must not evade accountability even if the probe stretches to the elections that made her president. If she is innocent, she must clear her name by dealing with the matter. A prosecution probe must be thorough so as not to require a separate special investigation.

The Sung list already has shown some credibility. An aide of South Gyeongsang governor Hong Joon-pyo admitted that Hong had received 100 million won from the late businessman. More could come forward. The president must let truth define her fate.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 13, Page 30
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