President on the brink

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President on the brink

All of Korea is in deep embarrassment. Citizens on the streets and in the subways are calling for an impeachment or the resignation of President Park Geun-hye. We don’t want such an extreme event to hit the nation. The president must declare a thorough investigation into the shocking power abuse scandal involving her close friend Choi Soon-sil. Park must promise she will comply with the investigation as transparently as possible.

The 90-second apology by the president aired Tuesday was lacking in both credibility and sincerity. It was excuses and lies. The president talked about Choi’s involvement in writing her speeches for a short period of time after her inauguration. But it turned out that Choi received from the Blue House 12-inch-thick documents and briefing materials for the president on a daily basis, which included sensitive information about a reshuffle of presidential aides, including the chief of staff.

The presidential office shrugged it off by saying it could hardly constitute a crime, instantly triggering public outrage. Who can believe what the president or Blue House says from now on? The administration cannot be sustained unless an independent counsel gets to the bottom of the case and brings to justice any of those responsible for the strange abuse of power.

If President Park believes she trusted her friend “out of a pure motivation,” that’s an excuse to do nothing. In that case, the president will face a tsunami of public anger, which could force her to leave the Blue House before her term ends in February 2018. No one wants to see that happen. If the president brings that on herself, she will leave an indelible stain on the history of our democracy.

An investigation of an incumbent president is a painful procedure. It happens in the United States. President Bill Clinton endured Special Counsel Kenneth Star’s investigations into his affair with a White House intern. He accepted a special investigation — and completed his term.

Park must give up all privileges for a full investigation. She must request a harsher probe than an ordinary person would get and immediately order Choi, who fled to Germany, to return to face the music. That’s the last chance to rescue her government. Otherwise, the public will demand she resign.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 27, Page 34
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