Now comes the hard part

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Now comes the hard part

The Constitutional Court ruling dismissing President Park Geun-hye has kicked off the race to elect the 19th Korean president. The next president has the historic mission to unite a society suffering from an extreme divide and mutual distrust.

The impeachment of Park underscored the need of earning public trust in order to sustain leadership. An ancient adage warns that water can float a boat — and sink it as well. Water is the people and the boat the nation’s leader. Anyone aspiring to become a leader must humble himself or herself before the people, respect their opinions — and fear them.

Park brought about her own doom because she has chose to keep her eyes and ears shut. She kept to her private chambers and did not come down from her high horse despite repeated pleading from people who meant her well. The next tenant of the Blue House must keep flatterers at bay and consult people who talk straight and honestly. He must keep his ears open to hear opinions beyond ideology, class, and generation.

Honesty does not come free. He must keep all the dialogue channels open and relationships transparent. He should not be partial to specific groups or individuals. Roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined. If roles and responsibilities are ambiguous, power could become unbalanced and breed a clandestine inner circle.

Power must be appropriated. Our society has become too complicated and multilayered for the president to be omnipotent. Authority should be bestowed onto specialists so that well-versed people can be involved in governance. Instead of the president bothering with the nitty-gritty, he should coordinate differences and look at the big picture in public policies. Many presidents failed to do so. They arrived at a poor end from falling prey to the temptations of power.

Such virtues cannot suddenly be found after the swearing in. The candidates must train themselves from a much earlier time. The next president does not have much of a training period — and probably a very short honeymoon too.

We have produced a failed president because we failed to thoroughly study the candidate during the election campaign. Election Day is expected on May 9. Candidates must candidly show their true faces to voters. They must prove that they will be different. Otherwise, the nation cannot be patched up and fight various challenges. Voters must make prudent choices after rigorous study of each candidate over the next two months.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 11, Page 26
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