Hollow words

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Hollow words

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon’s sudden declaration that he would not run in the next presidential race should be a lesson to other presidential hopefuls. Park topped the polls among potential presidential candidates in 2015 when authorities came under fire for a slack response to the spread of the Middle East respiratory syndrome. He even outpaced Moon Jae-in, who was the head of the main opposition party.

But he gradually fell out of public favor to lag behind Lee Jae-myung, mayor of the much smaller city of Seongnam. In a recent Gallup Korea poll, Park did not make the top eight candidates.

Park’s decline is not surprising. He lacked singular catchphrases like other potential candidates from the opposition — Moon Jae-in and Lee Jae-myung — who respectively champion the overthrow of the conservative government and disbanding of the chaebol. Instead, Park merely attacked other contenders. Politicians cannot win the support of the public without presenting their own vision to navigate the country out of multiple dangers and risks. Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also slipping in the approval ratings for a very similar reason.

Park’s dropping out should be a wake-up call to other contenders. Many are trying to make headway as the impeachment process suggests an early election, but none of them have impressive agendas to combat the unprecedented political and economic challenges.

Every one of them promises to create more jobs and reform the chaebol, but that’s all rhetoric. They call out for constitutional reform as a slogan to appeal to the public rather than for any genuine desire for a new beginning for the country.

Empty rhetoric only deepens public apathy towards politics. The upcoming presidential election will be held at a time when the country faces unprecedented challenges. The contest must be entirely on leadership visions to rebuild this country. Otherwise, the next president will be unable to restore public confidence.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 27, Page 26
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