It is fair to say that the Park Geun-hye administrations New Year has begun with the presidents New Years press conference on Monday. The public wanted to see a new and fresh start of President Park as the New Years address came as the administrations attempt to put an end to the "Memogate" scandal, which raised a political storm at the end of last year, and to put the government back to the normal state. Since President Park was well aware of such public sentiment, she vowed in opening remarks saying, "The government will take corrective actions to prevent the incidents that have disturbed social stability from reoccurring again. I am sorry and heavy-hearted for letting down the people with this document crisis. This years press conference deserves compliment since it has a relatively natural format where reporters asked questions on behalf of the public and the president gave honest answers compared to the last years address.
However, President Park showed a big gap from the publics expectation when it comes to awareness of the reality, especially on the "Jeong Yoon-hoe scandal," which involves leaked presidential documents alleging that her former aide attempted to meddle in state affairs. On the issue, President Park noted the prosecutions scientific investigation confirmed that all in the leaked memo were falsehood and fabricated. However, leakage of presidential office`s documents is unforgivable and wrong behavior for public officials. Surely, this is a comment made by the president who majored in science. On the contrary, the recent Gallop poll shows that 59 percent of the public do not trust investigation results by prosecutors. Documents that alleged regular-basis gathering of 10 presidential secretaries to exercise undue influence over state affairs can be said as falsehood. But what threw fuel to the fire of suspicion was the administrations closed manner in dealing with state affairs, in which nobody knows who discusses with the president on state affairs and who makes recommendations for personnel appointment to the president, spreading controversy of "secret influential figure" as if it were true.
Even though the root-cause of such controversy over "groundless rumors" was President Park herself, the president did not have a thought about changing her style and blamed others in anger, saying, I believe the fact that such ridiculous and groundless matter caused a big uproar in the country...is an evidence that our society is not healthy. Not to mention failing to recognize her own issues, the president reaffirmed that her way of ruling would not change.
Many media outlets requested for reshuffling of the presidential secretary office, which is believed to lead to reform the government affairs. Although President Park doesnt like "reshuffling her Cabinet as an event to turn over the situation," but personnel reshuffling can turn around the situation and secure new motivation to drive the state affairs in a new direction. Especially, Kim Ki-choon, the current chief of staff to the president, has greater responsibility in that he didnt handle the memoranda leakage scandal at earlier stages, which festered the issue, and left the indiscipline unchecked among officials of the presidential office. Nevertheless, President Park sided with the chief of staff, saying, He is a rare selfless person, and firmly said she has no plans to dismiss her chief secretary and the three key presidential secretaries who allegedly attempted to meddle in state affairs.
Former civil affairs secretary Kim Young-han rarely met with the president in person over the seven months when he was working at the presidential office. But the key presidential aides in question must have met with the president in person on a daily basis. The public did not ask whether there was any irregularity or corruptions in these presidential secretaries. The public were concerned that these key presidential aides may exercise undue power to cover the presidents eyes and ears and to meddle in state affairs, such as personnel appointment and policy making. Still, the president decided not to dismiss these key aides, which was demanded by the public, solely because of personal fidelity with the secretaries. Such behavior seems like the presidents obstinacy.
On the issue of government personnel appointment, President Park said, There would be no one who can match me in terms of keen interest in finding a public official who is capable and has high integrity, who will not be finger-pointed by the public. But the public probably would not agree with the remarks. As the first economy minister, the president appointed Hyun Oh-seok, not a mainstream public official in the Ministry of Finance and Economy (former Ministry of Strategy and Finance). The presidents wrong personnel appointment brought disturbance in the state affairs and played a great part in missing the "golden time" to revive the economy.
In regards to communication that most of citizens are thirst for, President Park said, I had active communication by inviting people from all walks of life. Ministers have sufficient authorities and responsibilities, and have a chance to report to me in person whenever necessary. If it is being done so well, the president needs to have to look back on herself why such great practice is known wrongly to the public. The president also revealed a plan to create a new position of special secretary per specific area. These newly created positions may play supplementary roles to fill in the gap of communication. But if the presidents fundamental mindset that "everything is going well now" does not change, the special secretary position probably end up with some of job creation. Moreover, in the government structure where personnel in the line office, such as prime minister, ministers, chief secretaries, cannot meet the president frequently on the necessity basis, it would be hard for special secretaries to go beyond the "key presidential secretaries" at the door to the president and freely communicate with the president.
The New Years address held on Monday only reaffirmed that President Parks lack of communication would not change even in the midst of strong criticism from the public, and failed to earn trust of citizens. How many citizens would agree with President Parks claim that the president does everything well but the public and the press have misunderstanding? When asked about the future plans and her mission for the remaining three years of her presidential term, the president said economic revival and laying the groundwork for the peaceful unification. It is unfortunate for the nation as the president does not recognize this as a problem while the public want to change the presidents way of communication and government operation.