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Pres.-elect Park should push for nat`l unity, risk mgmt.

Pres.-elect Park should push for nat`l unity, risk mgmt.

Posted December. 20, 2012 07:20,   


Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party has been elected the Republic of Korea’s 18th president. She is the country`s first female president and the daughter of former leader Park Chung-hee. Park Geun-hye is also the first candidate to earn more than half of the votes in a presidential election since 1987, when South Korea was democratized. The Dong-A Ilbo congratulates President-elect Park and express condolences to election runner-up Moon Jae-in, the candidate of the main opposition Democratic United Party. As the tight race is now over, the people should go back to work and unite for a better future instead of remaining divided.

The latest election, which pitted the pan-conservative camp versus the pan-liberal community, showed a generational, regional and income divide. The first thing the president-elect should do is to embrace the half of the people who did not vote for her. She can succeed as chief executive only after she avoids the winner-takes-all situation and embraces her opponents. In a democratic election, there is a winner and a loser. The winner should show tolerance while the loser should graciously accept defeat. The people had a strong desire for new politics that stemmed from distrust in old politics. New politics is not for politicians but for the people. Park Geun-hye should keep her pledges on political reform that she made in her presidential campaign. Politics should resolve conflicts instead of amplifying them. Politics should worry about the people instead of making them worry about it.

The new president has a tough road ahead. The country has the world’s 15th-largest economy and trade volume of 1 trillion U.S. dollars but faces a bleak future. The potential growth rate, which reflects the economy’s fundamentals, fell to the low 3-percent range. Per capita income has remained at 20,000 dollars since 2007. Household debts are reaching a combined 1,000 trillion won (931.5 million dollars). A few conglomerates have global presence and drive the country`s exports, which contrasts with the sluggish domestic economy. This has led to uneven distribution of income and collapse of the middle class. The president-elect should redesign the national economy, which is faced with its limit, and overhaul its structure for economic revival.

Park Geun-hye should cope with a diplomatic and security environment where many countries will compete. China has its fifth-generation leadership led by Xi Jinping, and Japan will launch a new administration led by Shinzo Abe of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party. U.S. President Barack Obama’s second term will start next month, one month ahead of Park Geun-hye`s taking office. Russian President Vladimir Putin was inaugurated in May. South Korea`s new president should design a new diplomatic map with the leaders of the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

Depending on Park Geun-hye’s ability to conduct summit diplomacy, South Korea’s relations with neighboring countries could grow closer or go sour. Diplomacy is as critical as domestic politics and inter-Korean ties. She should get closer to the four countries based on her abilities and show leadership in dealing with issues related to South Korea.

The new president’s most important task is national security. North Korea ignored global warnings and launched a long-range missile following nuclear armament. Park Geun-hye should devise a detailed policy toward Pyongyang amid United Nations-led sanctions on the North. The strain in inter-Korean relations was primarily caused by North Korea’s sinking of the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. To thaw bilateral ties, Pyongyang should change first. Stronger cooperation with the world vis-a-vis sanctions on North Korea is quite useful for a constructive relationship with the four neighboring countries. Inter-Korean ties should be dealt with care with foresight of reunification. Instead of pushing for unconditional dialogue, Park Geun-hye should tackle the matter in a practical manner to prevent Pyongyang from committing a provocation. Whether Korean reunification, the economy, diplomacy or security, the first step matters most. Hopefully, South Korea`s president-elect can prove herself as a leader who is capable of national integration and risk management.