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Time to go

President Park Geun-hye has invited ridicule after a meeting with the press in her residence at the Blue House in which she insisted on her innocence in the ever-evolving abuse of power and influence-peddling scandal involving longtime friend Choi Soon-sil. In a New Year gathering the same day, core members of the pro-Park faction in the ruling Saenuri Party, including eight-term lawmaker Suh Chung-won and former Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan, reportedly said in chorus, “What kind of wrongdoing did we commit anyway?” The ridicule only rose.

We wonder why they are not thoroughly ashamed of what they did. They contributed to the party’s crushing defeat in the April 13 parliamentary elections, the irrevocable split of the party after massive candlelight vigils in central Seoul, and the party’s lowest-ever approval rating, now hovering at 10 percent. None shouts “Mea culpa!” despite a presidential impeachment. The party’s real crisis starts with a critical lack of responsibility for its own demise.

We find a glimmer of hope in remarks by former Chairman Lee Jung-hyun. He said he would leave the party after taking full responsibility for the crisis. A power shift in the party was triggered by Rev. In Myung-jin, chairman of an emergency committee. On assuming his role to rescue the embattled party, he demanded that all lawmakers who served as senior officials in the party and government, helped fuel internal division, and disappointed voters with indiscreet rhetoric all leave the party by Friday. Former leader Lee reacted to his call earlier than others.

In’s plan is to rebuild the party by removing core loyalists and ending corruption, cronyism and vested interests. Lee’s departure for the sake of the party deserves a compliment.

In’s next targets are Rep. Suh Chung-won, who tried to defend the pro-Park group based on his outmoded championing of solidarity, and Choi Kyung-hwan, who controlled party nominations for the April election. There is a consensus among Saenuri members that they can hardly hope for change unless both leave the party. According to a Saenuri lawmaker, Suh has expressed a will to leave the party at the proper moment, but Choi refuses to go.

In the world of politics, in particular, politicians must take responsibility for their mistakes. As President Park’s rule and the Saenuri Party have already collapsed to the point of no return, the pro-Park group must leave now.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 3, Page 30
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