An embarrassing speech

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An embarrassing speech

President Park Geun-hye was more emotional and detailed in her latest public statement apologizing for the allegations of power abuses by her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil. But the people remain unconvinced and unforgiving even after the president’s second apology. They still cannot understand how a woman without any credentials forced the Blue House, government and large conglomerates to grant her wishes. Management of the state has come to a standstill. Lawmakers have been demanding President Park step aside while people on the streets are loudly calling for her to step down.

Park’s sudden call for a televised statement was closely watched for any sign of conscience or courage from the president. Her words were poignant. She said she kept up a close relationship with Choi because the friend was a comfort to her in lonely times.

The president admitted that she “let down my guard and was not strict enough.” But she declined to elaborate further as “details could affect the prosecution’s probe.” Still, she fell short of truly explaining an obviously shady relationship. Park flatly denied that she was a worshipper in a cult. Instead, she used the time to explain herself but it has done little to appease the ever-deepening public outrage.

The teary and emotional speech could have moved some of her supporters. She also agreed to go along with an investigation by prosecutors and even an independent counsel. Yet nothing has become clearer from her statement. She should have publicly given authority to prime minister-nominee Kim Byong-joon to run the administration on her behalf. Kim suggested the president leave the ruling party and said he was given full authority to run domestic affairs, pledging to discuss governance with all parties. But Park said nothing to confirm her backing of Kim.

Kim can act on behalf of the president only when she makes it official. Otherwise, the administration will stay in limbo. The president also did not respond to the main opposition party’s demand that she withdraw the nomination of Kim and give the legislature the authority to name a new prime minister. She emphasized that state affairs should not be disrupted by the scandal. The president ambiguously said she would do everything possible to uphold her responsibility as elected president. Does that mean she still believes she can wield power after bringing about such shame and damage? The president must step aside for new leadership to restore order as soon as possible.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 5, Page 30
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