Yoon’s leadership, a double-edged sword

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Yoon’s leadership, a double-edged sword

The author is a political news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

I recently met a person who went to Seoul National University Law School. “Suk-yeol hyeong is skilled at solving any problem in one try,” he said. “He will certainly do better if the cabinet has more lively ministers and the presidential office does better PR.” Those who call President Yoon Suk-yeol “Suk-yeol hyeong” tend to trust his leadership based on what they’ve seen from “watching him so far.”

But this “Suk-yeol hyeong” experience is a double-edged sword. It doesn’t work for the people who don’t get to see him in person, most notably the members of the governing People Power Party (PPP) — the most important partner for President Yoon. Even for the lawmakers close to him, their first experience of him is from the time when he served as prosecutor general. Except for them, “Suk-yeol hyeong” is a far-fetched story.

What about political news reporters? President Yoon broke away from the prosecution and became president in a year. Not many field reporters have had a close conversation with him. Therefore, what the president says is published just as he says. Even if a writer wants to fluff it up with fancy political interpretation, little is known about him. Even people in political circles know little about him, not to mention the general public.

But Yoon hasn’t given up this personal leadership. In an unprecedented situation of excluding MBC reporters from boarding the presidential plane, he called in a small number of reporters separately for an in-flight chat. When the National Intelligence Service’s planning and coordination director — a former prosecutor who landed on the job thanks to their “brotherhood” — resigned due to suspicious reasons, the president appointed another prosecutor. This is what “Suk-yeol hyeong” does.

No matter what sincerity Yoon has, it is useless if it is not conveyed outside. This is exactly how he behaved in the aftermath of the Itaewon disaster. The president must have felt sad. But at the scene of the disaster, he casually said, “So, is this the place where so many people died?” He failed the bar exam nine times, but he was the “brother who served as a pallbearer” while studying for the exam. But to the eyes of the citizens, that was the scene of a “president who talks like a prosecutor.”

It is time to put aside the “Suk-yeol hyeong” leadership for a while. He is the president and is required to show public leadership for the people. For the vast majority of citizens who have no idea what he was like when he was “Suk-yeol hyeong,” his “brother” leadership is hard to empathize with.
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