Park Geun-hye‘s illusion
Breaking away from past is not burying it
Most Koreans say if presidential elections were held today, Rep. Park Geun-hye would win. Not a few seem to think the outcome won’t be much different even eight months later, as she will beat any opponent from the liberal alliance.
So formidable was the prowess of the ``election queen” shown in last week’s parliamentary elections. Considering most Korean voters cast ballots not for candidates but for their parties, or their leaders, it is not too much to say the interim head of the ruling Saenuri Party almost singlehandedly turned the tables, albeit aided by the opposition’s blunders.
She did so by cleverly distancing herself from unpopular President Lee Myung-bak, under the slogan of ``Let’s break away from the past, and move toward the future.”
To demonstrate she is a different brand of conservative leader from Lee, the daughter of general-turned-president Park Chung-hee made public promises for greater welfare, more equitable society and a better inter-Korean relationship. She even apologized for those who ``sacrificed themselves in the course of the nation’s industrialization,” referring to victims of her father’s 18-year-long dictatorship.
It may be a tad too early to say, yet Koreans, those who like or dislike her alike, are seeing little signs of change in the 60-year-old politician, at least so far.
Most noticeable is her reluctance to clean up the mess Lee has made, which should be her most urgent job whether she likes it or not. A case in point is the handling of the government’s illegal surveillance of private citizens. Park pledges to enact a law to prevent unlawful spying on citizens. That may be necessary, but a more pressing task is its thorough investigation and due punishment of the apparent lawbreakers, according to the existing law. Does Korea need a new law to prevent theft to punish thieves?
Park’s hesitancy to expel two successful but shameful candidates ― a sexual harasser and academic plagiarizer ― also casts doubt on what she has long stressed is the ``politics of principle.” If Park’s words and acts change between friends and foes, and before and after the elections, she could succeed as a campaign cheerleader but not as a national leader, even if she becomes one. Also regrettable is her disinterest in key social issues, such as the prolonged strike of broadcast journalists. Voters may think Park sympathizes with Lee’s attempts for media control.
We don’t think Park should be excluded from the presidency because of the negative aspects of her father’s legacy. Children cannot _ and should not _be held accountable for what their parents did. Yet she must realize people think, and know ― genes can hardly change. One can seldom alter his or her DNA, biological or political, hereditary or acquired.
Park must not reaffirm such conviction with her lack of proper views on history, rule of law and democratic values. Such a popular belief or bias also deepens when she only emphasizes national interests apparently at the expense of people, especially weak and powerless ones.
Breaking away from the past should be different from burying it in the ground. Until and unless she realizes this, she will remain an unfortunate politician. If she becomes the President despite that, it will be unfortunate for the whole nation.