Presidential rage

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Presidential rage


We have all had an experience of venting out anger recklessly and ending up with a fiasco. Losing your temper with your wife can jeopardize your marriage, and raging at your boss can lead to trouble. It is only human. While it would be nice to always keep calm, it is not easy. We get angry over injustice, disappointment and betrayal.

President Park Geun-hye is seriously angry and shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the last link with North Korea. The Chosun Ilbo’s Feb. 13 report suggests how furious Park was. According to the article, Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo issued the statement on shutting down the complex on Feb. 10, and little from the original statement remained. President Park personally crossed them out and rewrote it in her own words. A Blue House source said that much of the statement was the personal voice of the president, containing her anger over breaking the trust.

She must be very angry at China if she is deciding to begin negotiations for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system deployment in Korea despite Beijing’s firm opposition. China is the only one with leverage to handle North Korea, so she is furious that China was hindering her plan of extreme sanctions on the North. She must feel greatly disappointed and betrayed, considering her hard work to improve relations with China.

Pyongyang started the new year with a hydrogen bomb test and conducted a long-range missile test disguised as a satellite launch. North Korea ignored United Nations resolutions completely and challenged the international community directly. We are all angry at North Korea’s rogue behavior, provoking fear and disturbing peace.

However, the anger of average citizens is different from how a leader feels. Imagine impulsive decisions made out of anger without contemplation being translated into policies without filtering. It is catastrophic if any of these decisions goes wrong and results in fatal danger to the security of the nation and safety of the people. No matter how mad she becomes, she should have calmed her anger and recovered composure to make decisions out of sound judgment as a president. Fury can be blinding, and decisions made on a whim can result in irreversible regrets.

When the president gets angry and loses temper, the brake on the decision-making process does not work. No official would disagree when the president, who has nomination power, vents out the anger. When the president works up steam and makes an order, not many can tell her she is wrong. Instead, they are likely to think that following her order 120 percent is the only way to avoid getting implicated in the matter. When the president makes a decision, government agencies and offices tend to justify the decision and even over-deliver it. The anger of the president flows down and amplifies.

The unification minister claimed that 70 percent of the cash paid in U.S. dollars as wages to the workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex were funneled through the Workers’ Party clerk’s office, or Office 39, to be diverted for the development of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons and missiles. He said that he had supporting evidence but did not release them. If his claims are true, this is a serious case. Naturally, people wonder why the government had remained quiet all along. There is also criticism that Seoul had directly violated United Nations Resolution 2094, which bans the inflow of funds for WMD development into North Korea. It seems that the arguments to support and justify the president’s decision ended up in missteps.

The government has also decided to temporarily suspend humanitarian aid for infants and children. Being angry at the North Korean leader resulted in punishing the young children. It is completely unacceptable. I cannot imagine President Park actually ordering it, and it is likely that the working-level officials over-delivered. The unhumanitarian action of not distinguishing the regime and the children can put a strain always.

I think President Park did not decide on the complete shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and order to begin negotiations for Thaad deployment out of anger. I believe that she regained her calm and deliberated before making the decisions.

There may be different views, but I personally think that closing the complex at this stage was wrong and Thaad deployment was rash. But the die is cast already. Hopefully, Park’s agonized decisions will effectively calm North Korea’s rogue behaviors.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 16, Page 35

*The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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