Which path will Yoon take?

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Which path will Yoon take?

Lee Ha-kyung
The author is the chief editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“I am not loyal to any one person,” Yoon Suk-yeol said to the head of the National Intelligence Service’s investigation team during the online comment fabrication case. He also admitted to receiving pressure during a 2013 National Assembly inspection.

His remark completely changed Yoon’s fate.

Yoon, now the president-elect, is a product of the chronic discord and contradictions of Korean politics. He worked for justice and fairness as a prosecutor but became a weapon of the Moon Jae-in administration when the Park Geun-hye administration was targeted. However, after the Cho Kuk case, he became a darling of the opposition, when a candidate was needed to regain power.

Yoon needs to show the miracle of mending the politics of division that splits public sentiment into two. Can he legitimize this power struggle and become a successful president? To this end, he needs revolutionary ideas.

He must also recognize that he has become a tool of hatred by demonizing his rival in the course of the campaign. When the winner shows generosity, voters who chose the losing candidate will become more receptive.

The president-elect must discard the notion that he is right and others are wrong. Only then can he attain integration and become the “honest slave” he pledges to become.

Yoon recently declared that he will move the Blue House to Yongsan, central Seoul. With such an unconventional idea, he is responding to a historically pertinent issue. He will become the “first citizen” by voluntarily rejecting the pinnacle of imperial presidency.

During press conferences, instead of hiding behind his aides, he answered reporters directly. I saw the determination of a realist who wants to feel the joy and laments of the public rather than be lost in abstractions.

The Blue House is a 250,000 square-meter (62-acre) palatial facility and is 3.4 times the size of the White House in the United States. The main building, occupying 8,476 square meters, is similar to the Geunjeongjeon Hall of Gyeongbok Palace in the Joseon Dynasty. The distance from the entrance to the president’s desk is 15 meters (49 feet) and it takes 10 full minutes to walk to the secretaries’ offices.

It is a shameful symbol that isolates the president. Here, he becomes an emperor with limited communication while the real owners of the republic become subjects of a distant sovereign.

Since the Oval Office in the White House is structurally close to staff offices, the U.S. president can not come under the thrall of personal acquaintances like the ousted President Park Geun-hye did with Choi Soon-sil.

While the relocation site is controversial, who can oppose the new president’s attempt to escape a kind of prison with no communication?

Currently, 3,000 military and police guards surround the Blue House. You don’t see that kind of security around the White House. Moon wanted to abolish the Presidential Security Office, but the size of the staff has increased from 532 to 693, by 30 percent. I hope Yoon will keep the promise he made in his statement, “There is no need for excessive security.”

Yoon’s biggest strength is the fact that he can negotiate between the ruling and opposition parties as he has no political debt. He is the first president from Seoul and is free from regional sentiment.

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People look at the Blue House after President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol on Sunday announced his plan to relocate the presidential office to the Ministry of National Defense building before his inauguration on May 10. [YONHAP] 

The reforms of Solon, who laid the foundation of Athenian democracy in the times when the term democracy did not exist, can provide some ideas. Solon became the mediator when there were signs of a civil war due to the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the late 6th century BC. He believed that a civil war would not occur in a fair society and maintained a balance between the aristocrats and commoners. He thoroughly attained reforms within the principles of justice.

Solon protected the poor from rich men’s greed, and defended the rights of the aristocrats from the excessive demands for fair distribution. He changed the “laws written with blood,” which punish even light crimes with capital punishment, into the “laws with human faces.” But he humbly admitted that he could not satisfy everyone and gave up power voluntarily.

President-elect Yoon said that he cried for two hours after watching a movie about the late President Roh Moo-hyun. Despite opposition from his supporters, Roh offered the biggest opposition, the Grand National Party, to form a coalition. He believed it was the best way to save the nation.

We need the way of “Roh Moo-hyun, the fool,” who did not monopolize power. If the incoming Yoon administration pursues a coalition with the Democratic Party, which has 172 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, the current extreme politics of hatred can turn into a politics of integration.

In 1966, Germany’s Christian Democratic Party, headed by former Nazi member Kurt Kiesinger, and the Social Democratic Party, led by anti-Nazi activist Willy Brandt, made the first grand coalition. It was “sleeping with an enemy,” but the coalition successfully managed state affairs.

Yoon must forget the “memories of a prosecutor,” brandishing his sword at both conservative and liberal administrations. He must break the ancient regime of division and confrontation with tolerance and integration.

It is undeniable that his victory is a product of factional politics. But if he pursues integration as a martyr, he will be recorded as a successful president in history.

Soren Kierkegaard famously said, “The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.” Which path will Yoon take?
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