A national shame

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A national shame

The Choi Soon-sil scandal is sweeping the nation. The once-powerful presidential authority has become a target of national jokes on the street and in the subways. Public outrage over the unfettered abuse of power by President Park Geun-hye’s longtime friend is poised to explode. Past cases of corruption involving the president’s relatives have been dwarfed by these bombshell revelations.

The country faces an unprecedented crisis stemming from its lethargic economy and North Korea’s never-ending nuclear threats. That urgently calls for national unity. But the Blue House appears to be paralyzed instead of focused on getting the nation out of disaster.

It is natural that college students across the country and civic groups across the spectrum are increasingly demanding the president step down. Some pundits are even comparing the current crisis to the mad cow disease spillover that plagued the early days of the Lee Myung-bak administration. At the time, however, many citizens, conservative and liberal, sided with the government, as they believed the fear was unfounded. But now, no one seems to sympathize with the president.

Nevertheless, the presidential office is not woke yet. Despite the gravity of the shocks, the Blue House is still trying to helm the government. Senior presidential secretaries said Friday that the presidential office is deliberating on effective ways to run the government rather than accept realistic solutions to tackle the catastrophe, including the establishment of a bipartisan cabinet or the resignation of all presidential aides and cabinet members. That is sheer nonsense.

President Park has already lost her moral integrity and prestige. No matter how hard she might try to regain leadership, it can hardly work anymore. It is much better for her to step back and play a nominal role as head of the state now.

To solve the Gordian knot, the president must take full responsibility for the crisis, starting with the replacement of her secretary for policy coordination, Ahn Chong-bum; her secretary for civil affairs, Woo Byung-woo; and her three “doorknob” aides — all at the center of the national shame.

The president must bring her close friend Choi back to Korea to clear all suspicions before it’s too late. If not, her administration will most likely go down in history as our most irresponsible yet.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 29, Page 30
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