A politicized tourTwo days after President Park Geun-hye returned from a trip to the United States, she headed down to southern cities of Cheongju and Jeonju to review the role of innovation cluster centers created there in promoting smaller enterprises and jobs for young people.
An official of the Cheongwadae explained it was the president’s return of attention to domestic economy following summit diplomacy. But the opposition saw it otherwise.
Main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea suspected the president of trying to help the ruling party vote by touring cities during the last week ahead of the April 13 parliamentary election.
People’s Party also criticized the president of indiscretion. Park had been consistently partial to her signature economic agenda of building so-called creative economy. She needs not put on hold of her economic agenda just because it is election season.
But why she suddenly had to schedule tour around the nation on the day preliminary vote kicked off with just five days left to the Election Day. It would be understandable if a certain national memorial ceremony or emergency incident outside the capital demanded her presence.
The wisdom to exercise flexibility in managing state affairs is also required of the chief executive. Moreover, extra dexterity was demanded of the president as the Saenuri Party and presidential office lost favor with voters with the disgraceful public display of showdown between the so-called loyalists and non-loyalists to the president over the nomination tickets for candidates.
Cheongju is one of most competitive constituencies without clear winning candidates from the ruling or opposition camp. Saenuri Party is hoping for the first possible win of a conservative candidate from a constituency in Jeonju.
The opposition camp would naturally question the motive of the president and her entourage of presidential secretaries and cabinet members visiting the sites and pledging to support the prospects of industry and jobs.
If the president and her aides truly believed their presence could influence votes, they clearly have underestimated the voters. The harder things are at the economic and security front, the more politically broad-minded the state leader should be. She must demonstrate to the people that her governance and policies are fair and public-oriented. Winning confidence from the public is more valuable than adding one or two seats for the ruling party.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 9, Page 30