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The president’s smile

Posted June. 30, 2014 06:44,   


The late former President Roh Moo-hyun during his term paid a state visit to Cambodia in 2006, becoming the first Korean President to do so. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen rolled out the red carpet for Roh. He volunteered to serve as guide to Roh, even guiding him to the jungles around the Temple of Angkor Wat. Roh, moved by the hospitality, ordered a sharp increase in official development assistance (ODA) to Cambodia during his visit there. Prime Minister Hun Sen treated former Korean President Lee Myung-bak like a distinguished older brother during Lee’s visits to Cambodia in 2009 and 2012. Lee likewise, satisfied with the hospitality, decided to increase aid.

President Park Geun-hye, who has recently visited three Central Asian nations, was treated to exceptional hospitality from her counterparts. Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov accompanied Park to museum visits, serving as her guide. The presidents of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan also escorted Park to universities, theaters, and museums. It is not known what gift Park bestowed in return, but the camera often showed her smiling, unlike at home.

When state leaders hold summits, there are almost no occasions for them to get their noses out of joint. Since working-level officials coordinate in advance bilateral summits, it is rare for them to fail. Due to this, when presidents who have lost popularity domestically due to various scandals or policy failures go abroad, they are buoyed by the summit results, and regain a bright countenance. Korean presidents before Park generally were, near the end of their terms, praised overseas but criticized, becoming beleaguered at home. Maybe these are the cases of all show and no substance for Korean presidents. It is a cause for concern that there are suspicions that President Park has already entered that state in just the second year of her term.

U.S. actor Zero Mostel said that the freedom of any society varies proportionately with the volume of its laughter. If we adapt that into an allusion to our domestic situation, the amount of laughter in Korean society grows in proportion to its happiness. June 30 marks the end of the first half of the year 2014 and the second half begins the following day. This first half, our people were extremely unfortunate. Not even the soccer team managed to console them. President Park even wept before the public. It is our hope that in the second half of this year, there will be multiple opportunities for Park to smile.