Contrast, a big contrast
The memorial is not the only one to commemorate the centennial of Park’s birth. Korea Post is to issue a stamp to mark the occasion next year. A history archive is to be constructed near his birthplace in Gumi city, North Gyeongsang. A “presidential meal” will be marketed for visitors, offering barley rice and seasoned pigweed.
How does the United States remember their presidents? The Nixon Presidential Library and Museum is located in Yorba Linda, southeast of Los Angeles. When I visited, I was impressed by the exhibition of the presidential helicopter, Army One. 100 year-old trees planted by Nixon’s father were preserved.
But the most impressive section was the Watergate Gallery chronicling the timeline and consequences of the wiretapping scandal and resignation of Richard Nixon. At first, the exhibition was standing up for Nixon’s position. But discussions over history resulted in a more detailed and fair account by the National Archive.
Every president wants to be remembered as a successful leader. In his exit speech, President Lee Myung-bak spent a great deal of time taking credit for his accomplishments. But no leader is perfect. What is the best way to reduce failures and minimize faults? The key is communication. In the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, visitors can find a sign, “The Great Communicator.” Reagan was involved in controversies like fiscal deficit and secret arms sale to Iran. But Reagan is loved for his superb communications with Americans. Some even want to add Reagan’s face to Mount Rushmore.
But there is a lot to be learned from the example of Nixon and Reagan. Recently, Saenuri Party chairman Lee Jung-hyun said at a television debate that Park Geun-hye was underrated in many ways, and there are many things not yet known to the people. The government distributed PR materials in trains during the Chuseok holiday and included the comfort women agreement, Thaad deployment and labor reform as top ten accomplishments. But these are policies that still involve great discord and controversy.
There are more scandals involving the president. Allegations over illegalities and nepotism surrounding the Mi-R and K-Sports foundations are ongoing issues. What about the “golden time” that Park emphasized so frequently to revive the economy? The administration still has time to score a goal. If the president thinks of all citizens as “historians,” she will find answers in the crossroads of merits and demerits.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 5, Page 30
*The author is the Investigation Plus editor for national news team 2 at JTBC.