Create an exciting drama, ParkAn emergency requires an extraordinary measure. Korea is currently facing an unprecedented crisis. It is the first time since the 1987 democratization that both the economy and security are in crisis. In the United States, some started raising the possibility of a preventive strike to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, and the discussion is specific and serious, because the North will be able to operationally deploy a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the U.S. mainland in about six months, after 20 years of efforts.
The preventive strike is about taking out the North’s nuclear facilities in advance. The option comes with extreme scenarios of aftermath such as the North’s collapse, all-out war and mutual destruction of the two Koreas.
President Park Geun-hye is also increasingly talking about the self-destruction of the Kim Jong-un regime and the South’s preparation to accommodate massive defections. And that is also ominous, because it can be linked to the aftermath of the preventive strike.
In the face of this unprecedented crisis, reorganizing national power is crucial. When the country is split, just like it was during the discussion on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system, it may be the South that will face self-destruction, not the North.
The first countermeasure that I can think of is that President Park must become the leader of the entire country, not the leader of the governing party. It is undesirable when someone declares himself or herself as a national leader. It should be a national leader who transcends factions and is trusted by a majority of the party.
For Park to overcome the limits of a factional leader, she should remove all factional issues. Then she must replace Woo Byung-woo, senior civil affairs secretary, and Kim Jae-soo, the newly appointed agriculture minister, as they are at the center of factional, political controversies. They plead that they committed no wrong. But stepping down from their posts by becoming scapegoats in time of national emergency is a patriotic act.
A president does politics through appointments, policies and messages. And appointments are the best way to show her sincerity to the people. Keys to the appointments are all about timing and impact.
If Park had replaced Woo a month ago, she probably would’ve felt humiliated by submitting to her opponents’ political attacks. If it were a month ago, the replacement would’ve been a forced decision, but if she does it now, it will be a decision to resolve a national crisis in a time of emergency.
Timing is the key that determines intention and initiative, with the person in power making the appointment. And it was Park’s power-management ability that made a difference over the last month. She may be poor in her policy and communication abilities, but she is determined to hold onto her power. This is an ability that must be supported.
Also, Woo is currently being summoned to testify before the National Assembly. The legislature informed him to show up on Oct. 21, but President Park has no intention to allow Woo to take the stand. If this situation continues, Oct. 21 will be the day of a frontal clash between the president and the National Assembly. It will be the day the people will fall into despair and the day the golden rule of the separation of powers will collapse.
If she replaces Woo now, there is no need for him to testify as a witness representing the Blue House. This is a technically masterful step.
The opposition parties are demanding Woo’s appearance, but she will be giving them a bigger present by sacking him. It’s like opening the door of a gas chamber before it explodes.
Minister Kim may feel it is unfair to be replaced, but Park must do so for the sake of a bipartisan cooperation to counter a security crisis. Even her late father, Park Chung-hee, did not ignore a resolution to recommend the dismissal of a cabinet member passed by the National Assembly. If Kim stays on, he will become a seed of continuing confrontations between the legislature and the administration.
Appointment is an art of impact that requires no expense. If it is detangled in layers, it may bring about an enormous chain reaction. Park must form a new cabinet with bipartisan members from different regions in order to make the replacements of Woo and Kim trivial.
The people are always touched by surprise decisions. Politics is about winning over the public. It is time for Park to create a dramatic event that will baffle the opposition parties. Now is an emergency. In time of an emergency, being a leader means doing the unimaginable and yet the absolutely necessary thing.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 14, Page 34
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.