Looking forward to a wise decisionPresident Park Geun-hye left for a 12-day trip to Latin America on Thursday without first deciding the fate of Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo, a move that will likely prolong the chaos over the widespread corruption in her inner circle.
The opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy immediately threatened to propose a bill to dismiss the prime minister, who allegedly received 30 million won ($27,714) in cash from the late Sung Wan-jong, the former chairman of Keangnam Enterprises. He committed suicide on April 9, leaving behind a note detailing the names of core members of the administration who accepted illegal funds from him. Calls for Lee’s resignation have even spread to some in the ruling Saenuri Party.
What is more dumbfounding about Prime Minister Lee, however, is the way he has been acting. After a few days flip-flopping on his own words, the prime minister said he will administer the government harder than before. The Prime Minister’s Office said he will attend an official ceremony to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the April 19 Revolution, led by student democracy activists in 1960. We are utterly depressed to see our president deciding upon the prime minister’s future only after she has concluded her trip overseas, as well as a prime minister who would go his own way despite public outrage over his lame excuses.
This situation was forewarned. Political circles and the public expressed concerns about the danger around the president’s absence at this critical moment and its repercussions on national governance.
We hoped the last-minute meeting between the president and Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung would offer a solution before she went abroad. But their talks ended without this explosive issue being discussed. The people are angry that the meeting went so poorly, even after delaying her flight to Latin America. It makes us wonder if Park is really aware of the gravity of the bribery scandal involving her former and current aides.
The president also alerted the ruling party chairman about the meeting just three hours before it took place. Chairman Kim added that the president urged him to pass a reform bill that would overhaul the pension system for government workers in April as scheduled. If the issue was that urgent, she could have talked with him earlier instead of delaying her flight schedule. We doubt the main opposition will cooperate with the bill’s passage at a time like this. We are ultimately looking forward to a wise decision from President Park.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 18, Page 30