Distorted realityAt Tuesday’s 10-minute visit to the National Assembly, President Park Geun-hye told Speaker Chung Sye-kyun that she would allow a new nonpartisan prime minister to manage the cabinet if the National Assembly recommends one. We welcome the decision six days after she fueled public anger by pressing ahead with her own choice for the position, Kim Byong-joon, a former chief of staff in the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration.
However, the president did not mention any plan for taking a step back from the running of the government and allowing the new prime minister to do that for her. Also, she didn’t make clear if she has the intention to withdraw her nomination of Kim. That sparked a harsh reaction from splinter opposition leader Park Jie-won, who interpreted it as “a scheme to buy more time without specifying what she has to.”
Her remarks at the meeting fell way short of finding a breakthrough in an unprecedented influence-peddling scandal involving herself and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil. The president should have declared she would entrust all her power to the cabinet and the legislature.
Her use of the term “allow” also caused confusion. We wonder if the president would not allow the new prime minister to run the cabinet in case he or she does not follow her orders. If that’s the case, the appointment of a new prime minister with more power and the establishment of a bipartisan cabinet would be meaningless.
Time is running out for the president. Jeong Ho-seong, one of her three “doorknob” aides, told prosecutors that the president ordered him to deliver Blue House documents to her friend Choi, along with his bombshell testimony that Choi even suggested dates and an agenda for senior presidential secretaries’ meetings. News reports say there is circumstantial evidence that the president also met with Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin to encourage donations to the Mi-R and K-Sports Foundations, which were led by Choi. The time for the prosecution to aim at the president is approaching fast with a third public protest rally scheduled for Saturday.
The president must promise that she will step aside and hand all her power to a new bipartisan prime minister. She must leave the ruling party. If the president still wants to hold onto power, she will be expelled from the ruling party, not to mention the possibility of impeachment by the legislature.
Park’s new chief of staff Han Kwang-ok and other advisors must act forthrightly. They should correct the president’s misguided recognition of reality.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 9, Page 30