Toward an orderly retreat

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Toward an orderly retreat

Justice Minister Kim Hyun-woong and Choi Jai-kyeong, a senior presidential secretary for civil affairs who had been in office for just four weeks, tendered their resignations after prosecutors declared President Park Geun-hye a suspect in their criminal investigation. Kim Moo-sung, President Park’s former campaign manager, declared he would not run for the presidency to share responsibility for putting Park in office in 2012. Former lawmakers have also left the party demanding dismantlement of the party where Park is the de facto leader.

The ruling forces are falling apart after Park became the first sitting president to be pinned as a suspect in a criminal investigation. It is a serious matter when a justice minister supervising the prosecution and a senior aide advising the president on judiciary affairs offer to resign at the same time. The Blue House has lost its grip over the prosecution, and the governance system is breaking down.

Since her first brief mea culpa, Park promised to the public that she would fully comply with prosecution probes. But when the prosecution released its interim findings naming her a co-conspirator along with her friend and aides, she scolded the prosecution with vehement rhetoric and refused questioning. She has indicated that she might not accept the findings of a special investigation if they place her in an unfavorable light. She may have been attempting to disrupt the investigation by using Choi and Kim as a shield. But she has lost the shield after Choi and Kim offered to step down.

Park must realize that she cannot hold onto power any longer. Bigwigs from the party, government and senior presidential staff are deserting the ship as they fear public backlash. Gyeonggi Gov. Nam Kyung-pil and Rep. Kim Yong-tae have already left the party, and former party leader Kim Moo-sung forgoing next year’s presidential race suggests the Saenuri Party — based on loyalty to the president — is fast sinking. If the implosion continues, Park will find herself on an empty ship.

Park is losing time and people fast. She must wake up from the wishful thinking that she can regroup her supporters and defend her power. She should be humble and surrender power to a prime minister designated by the legislature and retreat in an orderly fashion. That is the only way she can somewhat repent for the shame and harm she has caused the nation and its people. She must comply with questioning demanded by the prosecution. Otherwise, she could face additional charges of noncompliance.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 24, Page 34

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