Moon’s shallow calculationFormer Chairman of the opposition Minjoo Party of Korea Moon Jae-in is repeatedly calling for an “honorable retreat” of President Park Geun-hye from government. In Monday’s speech in Daegu, President Park’s birthplace and the home turf of Korean conservatism, Moon said that it would be a courtesy from the people to open a way for the president to step down with dignity. In a meeting among opposition leaders on Sunday, the former presidential candidate underscored that if Park declares her resignation voluntarily, he will help the president honorably resign from the presidency.
Of course, Moon could have made such remarks to demonstrate a generosity befitting a frontrunner among presidential hopefuls. But the people may think differently. They interpret Moon’s proposal as nothing but an arrogant attitude towards the law and their own sentiments and desires.
Who gave Moon, currently an ordinary member of the opposition, the right to pardon Park, who is now a main criminal suspect in an unprecedented abuse of power scandal involving the president and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil. Even Rep. Kim Boo-kyum of the same party, a third-term lawmaker who won a seat in Daegu in the last general election, criticized Moon for his “impatient remarks which failed to reflect the outrage of the people.” Moon should listen to his partymate.
If Moon made the remarks as if he was already elected president, that’s an even bigger problem. Immunity for a president can only be granted after he or she receives a final sentence. Given the gravity of charges facing Park, she is most likely to be prosecuted after she steps down as president. Under such circumstances, Moon cannot take any action until a court hands down a final verdict on her — even if Moon should become president.
Moon, a lawyer-turned-politician, knows all of this very well. Nevertheless, he came up with the idea of allowing Park’s honorable retreat out of a calculation that it would raise the possibility of him being elected president if a presidential election is held within 60 days after she steps down, considering his current competitiveness for the election.
The public strongly demands Park immediately step down as head of state, as she has already lost all moral and political authority. Moon too can make such a demand. But he does not have any authority to determine the fate of the embattled president after her resignation. If Moon really cares about the future of the country, he must first help push forward the impeachment of the president and the establishment of a neutral cabinet led by a powerful and non-partisan prime minister to help the president resign in an orderly way.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 23, Page 30