Park’s message unsatisfactoryPresident Park Geun-hye, still fatigued from a 12-day Latin American tour, spoke her mind on the scandal that has crippled the nation and cost the prime minister’s seat while she had been away. Park issued a public statement immediately after her return, saying it was unfortunate that she had to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo after he was implicated in the Sung Wan-jong bribery scandal. She said the scandal should be thoroughly investigated even if it requires a special independent probe which could target her key aides.
She promised that the scandal would be the starting point for sweeping political reform. But her overall message falls short of appeasing public disgust and anger towards long-standing collusion between politicians and businessmen, as well as the cowardly ways senior officials’ attempt to escape accountability.
She did not directly address nor apologize for the fact that three of her chiefs of staff, as well as close political aides, including the prime minister, were implicated in the bribery case. It is disappointing that Park talked about the corruption scandal as if it was a general political problem when, in reality, it had struck close to home. She came across as if she remained out of tune with reality.
Park inquired about why Sung had received special pardons twice during the Roh Moo-hyun administration. She condemned the move as a preposterous breach of legal principle and pledged to get to the bottom of it. But unlike the bribery list, prosecutors cannot investigate why Sung received presidential pardons. Park’s comment only raises suspicion that she wants to divert attention to the past administration in order to help the ruling party’s chances in the April 29 by-elections.
The president must take responsibility for all national affairs. Even if she is innocent, she cannot be entirely free from the fact that her aides have caused a huge controversy. She should have humbly apologized to the people first. She asked for cooperation to reform government employees’ pension at the end. But it is questionable that government employees and the people will cooperate when the president herself cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.
The administration needs strong leadership now more than ever if it is to tackle the various challenges it faces. The president must apologize to the people and show her desire for a transparent and thorough investigation by volunteering to be questioned if deemed necessary.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 29, Page 34