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`I Will Follow Basic Principles, Not Approval Ratings`

Posted February. 10, 2009 09:23,   


President Lee Myung-bak said yesterday that he will stick to basic principles instead of being affected by transient approval ratings.

In his weekly radio address yesterday, he also defended Seoul police chief Kim Seok-ki, who is under pressure to resign in the wake of the Jan. 20 deadly clash in Seoul’s Yongsan district. “The investigation is ongoing to find out the root causes of the incident. I think it is premature to decide whether the person in charge should step down or not,” he said.

President Lee’s comments have spurred a variety of interpretations. Given his personnel management style and emphasis on principles, many experts say he has decided to retain Kim, who has been nominated to head the National Police Agency.

A presidential official said, “President Lee is not willing to dismiss Kim.” The chief executive is apparently considering several factors such as restoration of law and order, stability in police organization, and establishment of government power.

Another presidential official was quoted as saying, “The presidential office will order Kim to prepare for confirmation hearings Tuesday.” Kim has begun preparing for the hearings after prosecutors completed their investigation on him.

Other experts, however, are urging Kim to give up his nomination.

President Lee helped Kim and Seoul police to save face by following the principles of launching an investigation into the Yongsan incident instead of dismissing him. Experts who back Kim’s voluntary resignation say Kim could relieve the president from a psychological burden by stepping aside.

A ruling party member close to Kim reportedly advised the president that Kim’s voluntary resignation is the only viable option.

How President Lee will deal with mounting difficulties remains to be seen. At the presidential office, some say the situation changes every minute while others add the president’s mind changes several times per day.

President Lee will probably make a final decision soon, however.

yongari@donga.com mhpark@donga.com