Park’s rough landingPresident Park Geun-hye returned home after a four-nation tour of South America. She received intravenous fluids for a fever and an upset stomach toward the end of her 12-day trip. Her health will be better with some rest. But when she returns home, she will discover a country in a critical state. She still has half of her five-year term left, but she could be shunned as a lame duck. How she maintains her authority to push ahead with rest of her promised agenda is entirely up to her.
Park should take the bull by the horns. She must neither dither nor attempt to walk away. She has not held a press conference this year. Even as her closest aides were implicated in one of the biggest political and bribery scandals after the suicide of Sung Wan-jong, former head of Keangnam Enterprises, she has failed to speak candidly about the allegations.
The prime minister is the second head of the state and appointed by the president. Lee Wan-koo, who offered to resign because of the charges against him, has lost public confidence. He came down in disgrace after just 65 days in office. He and former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon disappointed the people with their lies and irresponsibility. The president cannot escape the moral onus of the affair, regardless of the truth of the Sung charges.
To fill the vacancy of the prime ministerial post and change the mood in the administration, the president must seek out a new figure from a broad selection. She must choose someone with high morality regardless of his or her acquaintance with the president. Park already said a special investigation is possible to get to the bottom of the case, so she must give strict orders to her secretaries and justice minister to keep their hands off the ongoing probe. It is not right for Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-an to talk about expanding the investigation when prosecutors are still looking for a secret account book.
What is urgent is for the president to stand humbly before the people. She talked about reinventing the nation after the Sewol ferry crisis and reforming politics after the Sung scandal erupted. But what the people first need to see is an all-new president. The president has been confident and active when she is abroad. At home, she is aloof and protective. She does not meet the press and relays her thoughts through secretarial or cabinet meetings. She seems like a queen confined to walled palace. There is not much time left. To make up amends she must reinvent herself. She must throw herself to the people. We want to see her finally come out of her shell. She needs to declare and act as if there is to be a turning point for her and the nation.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 27, Page 30