Park Geun-hye’s way
Arrogant, egotistical image is last thing she needs
Unless something major comes up, the governing Saenuri Party will likely pick its presidential candidate at a national convention Aug. 20. And, unless some new sensation appears, Park Geun-hye will be the standard-bearer of the conservative majority party.
Despite ― or because of ― this seemingly unalterable outcome, the atmosphere in the ruling party is not very positive. And the reason for this mainly lies with the likely runner herself.
The 60-year-old veteran politician has flatly snubbed persistent calls from her in-house rivals for introducing an open primary system, which selects the candidate completely based on popular selection. In comparison, the current rule mixes the opinions of party delegates and those of the general public in a 50-50 ratio.
Park has sufficient, and plausible, reasons to stick to the status quo.
Above all, she doesn’t want to repeat her bitter experience of losing to President Lee Myung-bak at a primary five years ago because of an 11th-hour rule change made to reflect popular choices more. The system itself has some loopholes, too, including possible abuse by political opponents disguised and registered as bona fide participants in what party officials describe as ``adverse selection.”
However, if Park resists the open primary for fear of possible attacks from her rivals and resultant internal injuries, the problem will be serious.
For Park, daughter of the general-turned-president Park Chung-hee who ruled the nation for 18 years from 1961, her father’s dual legacy of economic growth and democratic hindrance is both an asset and burden. The former governing party leader apologized to the ``unintended victims of industrialization” a few times but has never denigrated actions her father took for this country, including the bad ones, by, for instance, describing a military coup d’etat as a ``resolution to save the country.”
This may be understandable on a human level but not in terms of her role as a politician, much less a possible leader. And Park’s lack of flexibility and tolerance, as shown in her refusal to even discuss the revision of primary rules, explains why this seasoned politician’s adherence to principle and trustworthiness can degenerate into arrogance and self-righteousness. Park even gave the impression of resembling, or imitating, her father when she demanded ``clear views of the state” from some leftist lawmakers, reminding older voters of the elder Park who persecuted opponents by painting them red.
That she appears reluctant to communicate with her rivals nor allow little difference of views within the party also takes voters back to the 1960s and’70s when ends justified all means in this country.
Park, who has been single for all her life, holds many attractions as a politician, such as her dedication to the country, a ``woman married to the ROK,” as her followers say. Park also moved several clicks to the left by inventing her own version of welfare state and economic democracy.
Unless Park is able to overcome her father’s negative legacy, however, her ultimate dream may remain just as that.