Sincerity mattersIn a press conference on Sunday, opposition People Power Party (PPP) presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol’s wife Kim Kun-hee apologized for having exaggerated and falsified her past records to get jobs at colleges. Spouses of presidential candidates are often at the center of controversy in the history of Korea’s presidential elections. But they stopped short of making a direct and open apology like Kim.
While apologizing for her attempt to “overstate my career while pursuing jobs and study at the same time,” Kim pleaded for a public pardon for her own mistakes. “It is painful that my husband has been criticized because of my faults,” she said. Kim pledged to reflect on her wrongdoing and take extra care to meet the standards required of the wife of a presidential candidate.
As Kim made a belated apology — 12 days after the first news broke — suspicion about the sincerity of her remarks grows. But her sorry feeling for her husband seems to outweigh that for the public. Nevertheless, her promise to minimize her role as first lady if Yoon is elected president carries significance. That is in sync with Yoon’s promise that he would shut down an auxiliary office at the Blue House handling affairs related to the first lady.
Under the presidential system, the role of first ladies was always questioned due to their expected public roles even without the stipulation of their legal status in the Constitution. As a result, some pundits comment that in the presidential system, the president runs a country while his wife controls the president. We hope a societal consensus on the role of presidential wives is reached this time.
Another question involves the way Yoon has dealt with his wife’s past. As public scrutiny of Yoon includes his family, he should have told the truth and taken action. Though he ardently championed the value of fairness during the campaign, Yoon came up with an apology for causing public concerns about his wife — 10 days after the news broke.
Due to the protraction, the controversy grew bigger. After the rumor broke that Yoon tried to block his wife from apologizing, doubts on his political judgement deepened. A political commentator cynically said that while Yoon’s rival Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) is gifted with skills to turn his 50 percent wrongdoing into a 10 percent wrongdoing, Yoon seems to have talent for making his 50 percent mistake into a 100 percent mistake. Yoon must reflect on what he did.
In an abnormal development, checking presidential qualifications of the two candidates is being eclipsed by scrutinizing their family before the Mar. 9 presidential election. If this continues, voters lose a chance to look into their ability to govern the nation. We hope the race returns to normal.