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Loneliness of being president

Posted April. 27, 2017 07:24,   

Updated April. 27, 2017 07:30


During the early days of a new administration, many people line up to have lunch or dinner with a new president. The presidential secretary’s office is busy with scheduling of dates. It all became quiet opposite after four years as the president starts to call in lunch or dinner mates. Ironically, guests are not even happy, saying, “I was not invited back then when the president was busy.” Former President Kim Young-sam recalled his memory of the emptiness he felt by the end of his administration about staying in Cheong Wa Dae only with his wife in the evening after all people left.

Kookmin University Prof. Kim Byung-joon, who served as former policy director for the late President Roh Moo-hyun, compared surroundings of a president to a road. In the early days, the road is filled with incoming cars. Some cars even honk for attention. Once it reaches a halfway through a presidential term, outgoing cars are spotted among incoming cars. By the end of a term, all cars are leaving. Some drivers are hitting their accelerators as if they are chased. In the late days of administration, President Roh lamented, “It was my one-man show again” after a meeting at Cheong Wa Dae during which everyone remained silent.

Park Chae-yoon, the wife of plastic surgeon Kim Young-jae who was often visited by former President Park Geun-hye’s confidante Choi Soon-sil, said the president “was very lonely” during her testimony at the court on Tuesday. She confessed she had conversations with the president in her private bedroom and the president shared her personal stories. Park continued that the president had been dealing with digestive issues after losing her parents and that was the reason why she prefers eating meal alone. President Park once said, “Korean people are my family and I have no time to feel lonely with so much work left.” Perhaps, it should have been interpreted as her expression‎ of her loneliness.

Presidents can feel lonely. However, psychological instability stemming from president’s solitude directly impacts state affairs. If a president begs for comfort or empathy from anybody, the administration will lose its direction. We have seen such incidents repeatedly from many presidents. Psychological stability is nothing less important than how much capable a president is in running the nation as presidential decisions determine destiny and future of the nation and people. Voters should remember this as we are nearing the presidential election.