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President’s late apology and naive request for `self-reforms`

President’s late apology and naive request for `self-reforms`

Posted April. 30, 2014 05:52,   


President Park Geun-hye offered an apology for the Sewol ferry disaster during a Cabinet meeting yesterday. She said, “I don’t know how to say sorry for failing to prevent (the disaster) and for the poor initial response and follow-up measures… I feel sorry to the people and my heart is heavy.” Before making the apology, the president paid her respects to the victims of the ferry disaster during a visit to a funeral altar in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province. Nevertheless, it is questionable if the Korean people have been touched and consoled by her public apology, which was made 14 days after the ferry sinking.

The president’s apology should be offered neither hastily nor too late. This case, the president has missed the timing of apology, and her expressions have failed to meet the people’s expectation. Regardless of the circumstances of the accident, 302 people lost their lives due to the faults of state organizations. Then, as a head of the government, the president should sincerely apologize to the victims and their families first. However, President Park only rebuked the public officials when she visited the accident site on Apr. 17, a day after the accident, when she presided over a meeting with senior secretaries on Apr. 21. She did not make an apology to the people although a nation belongs to its people in democracy. It seemed she was neither the head of the executive nor a person in charge of managing state affairs. This is why some people criticize that the president speaks to avoid taking any responsibility for matters.

Bereaved families at the funeral altar in Ansan lamented during the president visit to which country, police or military they should ask for help to save their children. They urged the president to correct faulty practices by saying, “Putting the captain in jail is nothing. Please correct the abnormal practices of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.” Listening to people saying, “Please take actions that you would do if your children had been lost like this,” how did she feel? Many people have expected Park, the first woman president of Korea, to take care of the people with the heart of mother and achieve national unity beyond the political, ideological and generational gap. Facing this tragic disaster, it is time for the president to take responsibility, share the victims’ sufferings and heal their wounded hearts.

At the Cabinet meeting yesterday, the president regretted that she had not made more efforts to normalize abnormal practices from the past at the beginning of this administration. And she ordered to develop measures to reform the bureaucratic society represented by the shameful nicknames such as “bureaucratic mafia” and “cheolbaptong” (a term satirizing the unassailable job security of public servants) and renew the management systems from the recruitment system to the personnel management system. If one order by the president could have made any difference, today’s Korea would not be like this. As we have witnessed through the reforms of the National Intelligence Agency, “self-reforms” by public organizations cannot bring about real change. Thinking a few words made by the president can reform the public offices is too complacent and naive.