The clock is tickingLast weekend’s massive demonstration in central Seoul can be recorded as one of the greatest bloodless “revolutions” by the people in the history of democracy. The grand wave of candlelight in the hands of over one million protesters at Gwanghwamun and Seoul Square has opened the way for our democracy — crippled by the unprecedented influence-peddling scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil — to head toward a meaningful turning point down the road. President Park must have heard the roars of public outrage directed towards the Blue House.
The Park administration has totally lost its raison d’être. The people have already delivered a death sentence to the president — along with an increasing call for her step down even inside the ruling Saenuri Party. Nevertheless, the president remains — probably thanks to the generosity of those who do not want her to resign dishonorably.
Yet President Park keeps mum. The Blue House only reiterates, “The president is accepting the public sentiment heavily.” Saenuri chairman Lee Jung-hyun’s announcement on Sunday — that he would step down after a new bipartisan prime minister is appointed and a neutral cabinet is established — is also very hard to understand. Only when the president steps aside from the frontlines of politics, can the new prime minister set up a genuinely neutral cabinet. Lee must first persuade the president to declare her retreat from government, while at the same time handing over his chairmanship to an emergency committee.
The clock is ticking fast. In a few days, the country will most likely see an incumbent president under investigation by prosecutors for ever-growing suspicions about her direct involvement in the shameful scandal. The bombshell revelations made so far are solid enough to prosecute her on criminal charges nearly on a par with treason or insurrection. If the president nevertheless goes against the roaring tides, this coming weekend’s candle-lit demonstration will surely spin out of control way beyond the June 1987 democracy movement and the April 19, 1960 Revolution, forcing the current crisis into a worst-case scenario in which she is forced to resign and face judicial judgment.
The president must declare that she would yield all her power and let her fate be determined by the people. At the same time, she must leave the ruling party and ask the National Assembly to appoint a nonpartisan and experienced statesman to minimize the power vacuum as soon as possible. That’s the only way for her to survive.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 14, Page 30