A solution named YooAnyone can face a crisis. When a crisis is extremely serious, we need to find a resolution beyond our imagination. President Park Geun-hye faces a serious crisis, and it started from the fact that the Saenuri Party was reduced to the second-largest party in the National Assembly. There is no precedent for the party of the president being reduced to the second-largest party.
During Roh Tae-woo’s presidency, the 1988 general election produced a diminished ruling party and three opposition parties, but Roh’s party was still the largest. The ruling party at least had the necessary driving force to run state affairs. In the 1996 general election, during Kim Young-sam’s presidency, the ruling party was also outnumbered by the combined opposition, but Kim’s party was still the largest.
And yet, Park’s Saenuri Party is no longer the largest group in the National Assembly. The two opposition parties can cooperate to pass bills and budgets the way they want. In the worst case, Park could become a comatose president for the remainder of her term.
The people, therefore, are curious about Park’s next move. The move must provide an escape for Park from this crisis, bring about consensus in the political arena and ease the public rage. Park tends to stick with an existing plan even in times of crisis. Instead of listening to advice, Park tends to embolden her authority and responsibility.
Speculation, therefore, is high among the president’s aides that the government will mobilize the prosecution and the Board of Audit and Inspection to use their investigative authority and heighten tensions in the relationships among politicians, businessmen and public servants. They said speedy and strong punishment should be handed down to election law violators in order to quell the victorious mood of the opposition as soon as possible. But that is a lame way to go.
Park may try to find some special crisis response. She may push forward a constitutional amendment aimed at changing the current five-year single-term presidency or call for a referendum by exercising the emergency rights given to her under the constitution. After a crushing defeat in local elections at the end of 2006, then-President Roh Moo-hyun proposed a constitutional amendment. Park, who was an opposition lawmaker preparing for a presidential primary at the time, labeled Roh an “extremely bad president.”
Another way forward would be adjusting to the changed political landscape and demonstrating the president’s creativity in directly tackling the crisis. That could mean a reshuffle of the party, administration and Blue House. A reshuffle is a high-level political gambit, and new appointments sometimes work as a cure. But sometimes they work as poison.
Park needs to change all key officials in the government and Blue House, including the prime minister and the presidential chief of staff. Public attention is focused on the leadership of the Saenuri Party. Park herself is the one who must take the greatest responsibility for the Saenuri Party’s defeat. If Park had not labeled Rep. Yoo Seong-min a traitor and overtly denied him a nomination, the Saenuri Party would have not been divided and no embarrassing factional strife would have taken place.
Reps. Choi Kyung-hwan and Lee Han-koo and senior political secretary Hyun Ki-hwan, who acted shamelessly to realize Park’s intentions, and Chairman Kim Moo-sung, who insulted the public by refusing to endorse some nominations, are also responsible for the defeat.
Rep. Won Yoo-chul, the floor leader, can be named an emergency leader of the party, but the public won’t be moved by this.
How about Park inviting Rep. Yoo to the Blue House and requesting him to run the party for the sake of its future? That may be akin to fixing the barn door after losing the horse, but trying to resolve a problem from where it began in the first place is a basic principle of politics. Sorry seems to be the hardest word, for sure, but sometimes it must be said.
Instead of issuing an awkward statement to the nation, Park should make public her position through a meeting with Yoo. Yoo’s “compassionate conservative” and “righteous conservative” philosophy shares a foundation with Kim Chong-in’s economic democracy line and Ahn Cheol-soo’s mission of reducing the wealth gap in Korea.
When the three people meet as leaders of the three major parties, the National Assembly’s mood can be changed from confrontational to reconciliatory to resolve problems. Park may even be able to use Yoo to resolve the delayed passage of many economic bills.
Park can promote both a “creative economy” and “creative politics.” Using Yoo is an incredibly difficult move that no Park associate would dare suggest. Who will have the guts to advise the president to use someone that she is extremely uncomfortable with? Big crises require big solutions.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 15, Page 30
*The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.