Painful revamp, please

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Painful revamp, please

President Park Geun-hye reshuffled her presidential staff, including her chief of staff. The ruling Saenuri Party shifted into emergency interim leadership led by a reform committee and ad hoc committee, in a synchronized action for a fresh start following a crushing defeat in the April 13 election that cost the ruling party its majority and first-rank position in the legislature.

Although the makeover is aimed at making up for the rift between the faction loyal to the president and nonconformists within the ruling party, not much is expected to change, as the new faces in the presidential office were mostly recruited among confidants of the president.

Her senior secretary for political affairs, who should have been most accountable for the election outcome, retained his seat. A Saenuri Party lawmaker who advised Park on the economy during her transitional stage was picked as her new secretary for economic affairs.
Rep. Kim Yong-tae, head of the reform committee, said he would map out an outline to reinvent the party. He may aim to fix the top-down command structure within the party and the one-way relationship between the party and presidential office.

But his enthusiasm is met with skepticism, as past reform attempts in 2011 and 2014 all had failed. Outside experts have turned down the offer for the position, recalling past failures.

The Saenuri Party left a shameful precedent by losing the first-party rank to the opposition from the recent election. But in the aftermath, it behaved as if it had learned nothing. Instead of regretting her part and apologizing to the public, the president maintained a calm face and went on with her business-as-usual ways. The party was busy blaming one another for the defeat and wrangled over forming the emergency committee.

A party must not accommodate factional divide, and it should not wage a loyalty contest. Voters have delivered a stern judgment. The faction loyal to the president must atone for its past arrogant and narrow-minded ways. The president must also change her domineering governance style.

There are many challenges the ruling party and government must deal with. Economic and security issues are alarming. There are no favored presidential candidates in the ruling party. They must also work in a three-way legislative structure. The ruling party cannot draw cooperation from the two opposition parties if it merely takes orders from the president. The reform committee must spearhead dramatic restructuring, and the party must support the changes.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 16, Page 30
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