Return of the empress?
Park Geun-hye must realize what voters want
Five years and five months after she quit the Grand National Party’s leadership, Rep. Park Geun-hye is returning to save the GNP from its biggest crisis. It’s not certain whether the ruling party will undergo a remodeling or rebuilding process. What’s certain is in any case the former GNP chairwoman and its potential standard-bearer next year will be the main architect.
So it’s pitiable the governing party appears mired in a relatively petty issue of its transitional leadership structure. More so, considering Park has been the ``closest person to the presidency” ever since the 2007 election. There is a caveat though. If the GNP is to give both the party leadership and candidacy to Park, it should revise the party rule ― made at Park’s own initiative ― which calls for the separation of the two roles, in a most democratic process.
After that, the GNP’s fate depends on the three-term lawmaker and daughter of iron-fisted autocrat and nation builder, former President Park Chung-hee. What’s crucial is how she reinvents the ruling party, the popularity of which has been declining over the past four years to hit rock bottom.
Park can ill afford to remain any longer as the mystic, behind-the-scenes empress, but should come to the forefront of real politics. She must show her policies and political style, especially how she is different from the person who snatched the GNP candidacy ― and presidency ― five years ago. It was encouraging in this regard that Park has recently hinted at giving up all vested interest with respect to the party leader’s right to name party candidates for parliamentary polls next April. Also hopeful was Park’s policy shift toward better public welfare.
She must go far further, however. The 59-year-old conservative politician ought to understand what most Korean voters want from body politics ― more equitable distribution of economic fruits and participatory democracy to realize it.
The ongoing crisis of the GNP and the Lee Myung-bak administration is due to their backpedaling in these two issues, which have become global trends, as seen in the worldwide ``occupy” series of protests.
So the first step Park should take is to push for getting to the bottom of the hacking attacks on the election watchdog.
The cyber election sabotage was aimed at keeping opposition-supporting young voters away from polling booths. Few Koreans believe the police’s conclusion that a GNP lawmaker’s chauffeur committed the egregious destruction of democracy ``single-handedly.” Park’s handling of this incident would show how sincere she and the new GNP are in restoring a democratic process badly damaged during four years of the Lee administration.
In economics, Park should make clear her departure from Lee’s overly business-friendly stance in labor and taxation policies. It is regrettable in this regard she recently showed hesitancy in endorsing the GNP’s move to impose higher taxes on the top 1 percent, revealing her adherence to her father’s outdated pro-rich, pro-chaebol growth pattern.
The keywords for future politics will be more democracy and more economic equality. The former Roh Moo-hyun administration attained relative success in the former, but failed in the latter because of its adoption of neo-liberalistic economic policies. The Lee administration has aggravated the situations in both areas. It is clear then what the next government should do and go in which direction to attain the two goals.
Koreans will watch whether the long-time presidential aspirant can shake off both the yoke and halo of her father-cum-political mentor, and boldly take a new, more progressive course with forward-looking leadership.
Unfortunately, these remain as hopes rather than possibilities, at least for the moment.