April 22, 2015 13:32
President Park Geun-hye as good as accepted Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo's resignation while she was away in Peru on Tuesday. Lee has been in office for barely two months and is the fifth prime minister to be replaced since the Park administration was launched two years ago.
Aspiring to the dubious distinction of being the country's shortest-serving prime minister, Lee resigned after being accused of taking W30 million (US$1=W1,084) in bribes from a former lawmaker and head of the perpetually troubled firm Keangnam Enterprises, Sung Wan-jong. Sung has committed suicide, but not before implicating a host of figures close to Park in his devious schemes.
The prime minister's job is to lead the country when the president is overseas. Instead, Lee had to tell the president he is quitting. This is a preposterous situation for the government to find itself in.
That Lee actually received the money remains unproven. But he had no choice but to step down as the first prime minister to become embroiled in an outright bribery scandal. He also lost public confidence by denying he was close to Sung until incontrovertible evidence surfaced that they knew each other very well indeed.
The prime minister is the No. 2 leader of the nation. It does not take a massive leap of imagination to gauge the morale among public servants at the moment. Now, the country is at the mercy of luck and most pray that no major catastrophe will occur in the country while she is abroad. The Cabinet, now led by Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan, had better watch out.
The bribery scandal has left a stain on the credibility of the Park administration. The fact that many of Park's confidants were on Sung’s bribery list has dealt a severe blow to her administration, just as her approval rating finally seemed to recover after taking hits from a series of failed appointments of top officials and the mishandling of the Sewol ferry disaster.
Park's political opponents have also gained more ground after successfully ousting the prime minister. The ensuing shambles and possible increase in political wrangling could cost the public dearly.
The president must come up with a solution and take responsibility for her latest faux pas. The least she can do is for once select the right person for the prime minister's job. She has a poor track record when it comes to choosing her candidates. Just for PM, three out of five of her choices have backfired horribly. If she fails again, the damage could be irreparable. The next choice must be spot-on.
The opposition parties must also focus their efforts on vetting the next candidate properly, rather than using the selection process as a chance for more political point-scoring, because they too could end up losing the public's trust.
Lawmakers, meanwhile, must waste no time in attending to the business before them, which they have as usual neglected over the political circus, and the government must finally deliver the promised reforms.
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