Lee has got to go

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Lee has got to go

Political turmoil is deepening over what decision Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo will make about his political future. Before President Park Geun-hye embarked on a 12-day trip to Latin America last week, ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung told her that the public was strongly in favor of Lee’s resignation. The president promised to determine the fate of the prime minister - under suspicion of taking bribes from Sung Wan-jong, chairman of a construction company and a former legislator - after she returns home on April 27.

Public patience is quickly wearing thin. The opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy demands the prime minister step down. The opposition is expected to propose a bill to dismiss him. Once the bill is proposed, the ruling party can hardly avoid a vote at the National Assembly.

A motion to remove Lee from the office of prime minister needs at least 14 votes from the ruling party. If his resignation is approved, the Park Geun-hye administration will swiftly fall into a lame duck situation. The president has yet to serve out more than half of her five-year single term after spending her first year dealing with the repercussions of her unceasing appointment fiascoes and the National Intelligence Service’s meddling in the last presidential election. Her second year was spent coping with the aftermath of the Sewol ferry disaster and a scandal involving a former key aide suspected of exerting undue influence behind the scenes. With the next general elections scheduled for April 2016, Park will face a tougher situation if her administration falls apart over the prime minister. She also faces an uphill battle pushing four major reforms, including reforms on civil servants pension.

In a speech to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the April 19 revolution triggered by the students’ democracy movement, the prime minister urged the pubic to raise our nation’s dignity by further advancing democracy. But the way he has been acting is contradictory. Lee has become a synonym for endless flip-flops and lies.

The prime minister said he was not close to Sung Wan-jong. But he had met Sung on 23 occasions and the two men exchanged 210 cellphone calls last year. Witnesses say Sung visited Lee’s office to deliver 30 million won ($22,798) in cash. Lee says he can’t remember. He has lost his integrity and ability to perform the role of prime minister. Lee must step down and prepare for a prosecution summons. That’s the only way he can repay the legislature which entrusted him with the top job as prime minister.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 21, Page 30
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