Taking responsibility

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Taking responsibility

The shameful state of the Park Geun-hye administration was caused by Choi Soon-sil, the president’s longtime friend at the center of an unprecedented abuse of power scandal in Korea. But the responsibility for failing to check Choi’s unfettered influence-peddling should be borne by presidential secretaries as well as the ruling Saenuri Party. Following Choi’s appearance at the prosecutors’ office on Monday, all presidential aides involved in the scandal have left the Blue House.

Now is the time for Saenuri Party Chairman Lee Jung-hyun to step down along with the retreat of those lawmakers blindly loyal to the president from the frontlines of politics. The pro-Park group, including Chairman Lee, has committed a serious crime of ignoring the president’s bizarre ways of administering state affairs over the last four years. The faction includes such heavyweight politicians as Suh Chung-won, a de factor leader of the faction, and Choi Kyung-hwan, former floor leader.

They have long been criticized for expanding their power and their own interests by taking advantage of their close ties to the president. But their pursuit of influence backfired in the April 13 general election. Their collective attempt to nominate pro-Park politicians for the election ended up transforming the once majority ruling party into a minority.

Saenuri leaders should have isolated the president from Choi after her inauguration four years ago and blocked any attempts at power wielding by Choi. The pro-Park faction cannot avoid mounting criticism that they chose to close their eyes to the corruption scandal before becoming accomplices or colluders in the strange turn of events.

The pro-Park forces must take political and moral responsibility for this crisis. We wonder if the party really feels any shame by now. A ruling party is responsible for preventing the president from taking a wrong path. Article 8 of the party’s constitution declares, “A party member, if he or she is elected president, must faithfully reflect party platforms.” As President Park reflected Choi’s personal ideas — instead of the party’s orientations — the pro-Park group must step aside.

The National Assembly faces tough challenges ahead, including the appointment of a special prosecutor, the establishment of a neutral cabinet and nomination of a new prime minister — all under a consensus between ruling and opposition camps. In an emergency situation that may call for the president’s stepping down, the irresponsible politicians must back off.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 1, Page 30
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