Self-righteousness proclaimed

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Self-righteousness proclaimed

President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday said she will meet with the head of Seongju, North Gyeongsang, and a lawmaker representing the county to proactively address the national division over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system. The president also underscored the “irreversible choice” of the missile defense battery, as it relates to “the security of our nation and people.” She plans to invite legislators from the Daegu and North Gyeongsang region to the Blue House to listen to their opinions. It is fortunate that President Park demonstrated a willingness to tackle, albeit belatedly, a question that has plagued the whole country over the past one month.

Thaad is basically a defensive weapons system to intercept North Korean missiles after detecting them through powerful radar. Given the massive stakes on our survival, that is an issue involving diplomatic, political and ideological aspects too. To resolve vehement opposition from local residents in Seongju and neighboring countries like China, a reiteration of principles is not enough. Detailed explanations are needed and, if necessary, a preemptive action to deal with predictable challenges.

Nevertheless, our government’s action was not professional. Coupled with its zig-zagging and flip-flopping on the issue, it went ahead with the deployment without public consent. Defense Minister Han Min-koo, for instance, has repeatedly made ambiguous remarks, which helped fuel scepticism about the government. After putting off the announcement of the deployment, he made it public five days after sporadic protests around the nation. Once a plethora of rumors about Thaad spread, he revealed the locations of our Patriot missile base and an early warning system for ballistic missiles.

Considering the gravity of the issue, Park should have persuaded the people of the necessity for the deployment through a nationally-televised speech or press conference. A one-sided and protracted demand for the deployment led to uncooperative attitudes of the ruling Saenuri Party — not to mention opposition parties — as well as public distrust and social discord.

Internal unity is important. The president must explain the lead-up to the deployment decision and convince the people about the unavoidability of its deployment. She must actively exchange views with lawmakers from the Daegu and North Gyeongsang region and politicians representing other parts of the country. A lopsided action amounts to a proclamation of self-righteousness. The president’s attitude must change.

JoongAng Ilbo, August 3, Page 30
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