Incompetence is worse than graft

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Incompetence is worse than graft

Korea is in a state of crisis. Of the most viewed news online, men mostly zeroed in on the damning list, implicating eight key politicians in a bribery scandal, found in the trouser pocket of construction tycoon Sung Wan-jong earlier this month following his suicide. Women, on the other hand, were more fixed on the anniversary of the Sewol ferry tragedy.

But Sung’s list has created a tsunami. Neither the Blue House nor the opposition nor the prosecution can say for certain whether this case has just begun or if this is the mere extent. The prime minister, the Blue House chief of staff and those in the administration are flustered beyond belief.

On March 12, the prime minister declared a war on corruption. Five days later, President Park Geun-hye, likewise, stated that graft needed to be eradicated. On March 17, Prosecutor-General Kim Jin-taek reiterated that eliminating corruption was exclusive to the prosecution, and a day later, Sung’s residence and the Keangnam Enterprises headquarters were raided.

But in an unforeseen turn, the businessman - who had close ties with heavyweights in the Kim, Roh, Lee and Park administrations - took his own life 21 days later, leaving behind a ticking time bomb of meticulously recorded notes and testimony. That bomb was thrown directly at those who declared a war against corruption.

The public often says that the conservatives are corrupt and the liberals are incompetent. The Park Geun-hye Administration is hardly liberal, but it is incompetent for sure.

Is there anyone doing the orchestrating in the national administration?

But Korean society is resilient and has taken various scandals in stride so far. But this is the first time the names of the incumbent prime minister and the Chief of Staff have been implicated in a corruption case at the same time.

But public sentiment is cooling down. And as the president set out on a 12-day tour to Latin America, she left a message that has not changed from a month ago.

The Park administration’s approval rating falls whenever the president’s speech grows distant from reality. Her approval rating fell by 5 percentage points from last week, and as she becomes increasingly unsympathetic, she is perceived as that much more incompetent. In politics, incompetency is more serious than corruption. Corruption causes outrage, but incompetency is often overlooked or given up on.

It’s already late, but President Park must return empathy to her politics.

The author is the political news editor
for the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 20, Page 30

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