Time for dialogueThe public are paying attention to what President Park Geun-hye would say in her first Cabinet meeting today since the ruling Saenuri Party’s crushing defeat in the April 13 general election. President Park has kept silence over the last five days except a short statement by a Blue House spokesperson wishing a “new National Assembly hardworking for the good of the people” on her behalf. People could not see any sign of deep soul-searching in the spokesman’s remarks.
In the center of the defeat lies the president. Until the last minute, she has vehemently attacked the legislature for not passing bills and urged voters to determine the fate of lawmakers through their ballots. But it turned out that the public punished the Park Geun-hye administration instead of the Assembly. The ruling party not only handed its majority over to the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea but also had to see older populations and voters from South and North Gyeongsang — Saenuri’s strongholds — withdrew their support.
That’s a red card for the president’s idiosyncratic obstinacy and heavy-handedness in national governance. Despite her Blue House aides’ attempt to attribute the election loss to the ruling party, it is an offshoot of the presidential office stepping in nominations of candidates for the election after dividing them between pro-Park group and the rest.
President Park cannot pass any bills without support from the 167-seat-strong opposition camp now. Unless the president changes first, it will make her a lame duck for the remainder of her term. She must start anew at today’s Cabinet meeting by first accepting the defeat and declare to uphold the public sentiments revealed in the election. Instead of lopsidedly blaming the opposition and pressing ahead with her political agendas no matter what, the president must communicate with the opposition toward the politics of negotiation and compromise. If she steadfastly reiterates her earlier demands for passing bills on labor reform and economic recovery without self-reflection, no answer can be found.
When then-opposition Grand National Party faced a crisis ahead of a general election in 2004 after a strong backlash from its impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun, Park took the job as chairman and vowed to respect public sentiment. Thanks to the move, her party could obtain 121 seats defying an earlier expectation of 50 seats. After her defeat in the 2007 presidential primary at the party, she accepted it without hesitation and received applause from the public, paving the way for her presidency five years later. President Park must go back to those days. That’s the kind of presidential leadership she needs more than at any times.
JoongAng Ilbo, Apr. 18, Page 30