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South Korea's new president must open up a new era

Posted May. 09, 2017 07:18,   

Updated May. 09, 2017 07:23


People want a new leadership. The former Park Geun-hye administration was an anachronistic throwback to the post-democratic era before 1987, going far beyond the hegemony of the pro-Park faction. Let alone communicating with the people, the impeached president hardly came out of her office, shunning face-to-face meetings even with her cabinet officials. Her penchant for secrecy ultimately served as the foundation for her corruption scandal in which the president and her confidante Choi Soon-sil colluded in together. Impeachment was justice brought to her shady authoritarianism.

While the framework of a democracy was established in 1987, the Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung administrations saw an abiding trend of factional hegemony. The late President Roh Moo-hyun tried to sever the links to old politics, but his efforts eventually led to pro-Roh hegemony owing to his dogmatic approach to reforms. Our new president must be a democratic leader to its truest sense, breaking away not only from the chronic authoritarianism in the country but also from the narrow-minded imperialism that has plagued the nation.

We cannot afford another president whose speeches are written by confidants. In the run-up to the presidential election this time, TV debates had a great impact on voters’ perception on the candidates. The debates pointed to a growing preference among voters for an articulate leader. The new president must be capable of exchanging impromptu Q&As with reporters, engaging in intense debates with lawmakers, and having sincere talks with people on TV and in the streets as the presidents or prime ministers of more advanced countries do.

Our people desire persuasive leadership. No matter how certain the president may be about his or her judgment, they can no longer lead a country without persuading lawmakers or citizens. The labor reform bill, which had been pushed for by the Park administration, fell flat because she failed to persuade the National Assembly and garner public support. In the case of the Four Major Rivers Project, with eval‎uating on its success set aside, public sentiment is still agitated because of the overbearing manner in which the project was implemented. Our new president must be able to listen to the voice of the people and reflect it in setting the goals of the upcoming administration.

Under the constitution, president must serve his or her people. In the process of elections, candidates join the race as a representative of their party, but once elected as president, he or she must represent the people, not parties. The president, who is to be elected today, must not forget about the fact that he must serve all constituencies, regardless of whether they voted for him or not. Oblivious to this rule, many of the successive presidents of South Korea have made the mistake of depending on their supporters only in handling state affairs.

Public desire is palpable that our voters want to transcend the schism of conservatism and liberalism. The current political landscape dictates that cooperation is an imperative not an option, no matter who is elected as the new head of state. On the legal front, the National Assembly Advancement Act is in place where three fifth of consent is required for lawmakers to pass any bill, and no matter which party becomes the ruling party, it would not be able to take up the majority seats in the National Assembly. Under the framework of co-governance, major parties will have to compromise, and minor ones will cooperate. Refraining from urging compliance, the new president will have to know how to win compromises and cooperation to succeed as a leader.

The days of imperial presidency in South Korea are being numbered. Imperial leadership only suits a command economy where the government presses ahead with economic growth. In the new era, the government will have to hand over much of its power to the private sector, and the presidential authority will need to be even distributed to the three separated powers of judiciary, administration, and legislation. Our new president must serve as a mediator among the powers. Open communication will be another attribute required of our new leader in order to achieve constitutional revision that paves the way for the 7th Republic. The president whom we have voted for today should not be one of the presidents witnessed by many other eras; we need someone who will open the door to a new era.