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President Park makes a deep apology for the inappropriate acts by Mrs. Choi, othersAll major Korean-language media demand thorough remedial actions

The Korean-language newspapers editorially questioned the existence of merit in the statements made by President Park Geun-hye following the news on the inappropriate behaviors of Mrs. Choi Sun-sil.

▲President Park Geun-hye makes a deep bow before presenting an apology.

The mass-circulated Korean-language daily newspaper, Dong-A Ilbo, questioned on Oct. 26, 2016: “Is the Korean government Mrs. Choi Sun-si?? Or is it Madam Park Geun-hye’s?”

Here are excerpts from an unofficial English translation of the editorial of Dong-A published on Oct. 26, 2016, which generally represented the views of most of the Korean-language dailies and other news media on the topic. Excerpts from the Dong-A editorial follow:

On the following day of October 25 after her announcement of a plan to revise the Constitutional Law before the end of the tenure of her office as the President of the Republic of Korea, President Park Geun-hye made an official apology concerning the inappropriate leaking of a Presidential speech.

President Park said: “Mrs. Choi is a person who helped me in the past when I had difficulties.” President Park said that Mrs. Choi helped her in the preparation of speeches and public relations materials. The President said that for a set period of time following her inauguration as the President, she used the services of Mrs. Choi but that she stopped using such services after the completion of formation of the Presidential support team. This means that President Park made a de facto admission to the partial participation by Mrs. Choi in the administration of the affairs of the state after her inauguration as the President of the Republic of Korea.

In a single day, the Korean people heard the shocking news one after another that rocked the Republic of Korea to its very foundation. On hearing the news, the Korean people felt dismayed, disheartened and found themselves in a miserable state of mind.

The 95-second statement of admission and apology by President Park that she used the assistance of Mrs. Choi in such matters as speech preparation and production of public relations materials is tantamount to trying to cover the heaven with a bare hand.

According to reports, 44 out of the total of over 200 documents related with President Park stored inside the computer of Mrs. Choi consisted of Presidential speeches and the Presidential instructions at the senior secretaries’ meetings at the State Council gatherings. On the following day, Oct. 25, there even were reports that they also contained the Presidential materials on foreign relations, national security, personnel affairs and economic policies.

President Park stated that she used the services of Mrs. Choi until she completed the formation of the Presidential assistants and staff. However, there are many signs and evidence that the statement is not true. There are signs pointing to the possibility that her statement may not be true. The contents of the materials related with the President stored inside Mrs. Choi’s computers covered details from December 2012 to March 2014, time of the Presidential elections. However, evidences appear one after another indicating the possibility that Mrs. Choi has been wielding an unbridled range of power and influence until most recently.

▲President Park, with tears in her eyes, makes a sincere apology to the nation for the mistakes made by Mrs. Choi Sun-sil and other associates around her. Many Koreans in Seoul believe that the situation this time is very seriouls.

Mrs. Choi’s power was so influential that even Vice Minister Kim Jong of Culture, Sports & Tourism asked her for her assistance in the government personnel actions. There are even more serious reports.

Korean-language daily, Hankyoreh Shinmun, reported yesterday quoting the words of former Secretary General Lee Sung-han of the Mir Foundation that First Supplementary Secretary Chung Ho-sung, who was a member of the ‘Gang of Three at Cheong Wa Dae’ who took charge of the ‘Door Knob of the Office of the President,’ visited the office of Mrs. Choi every night with a ‘Report Material for the President’ of about 30 centimeters in thickness, and discussed the affairs of the state together with Mr. Cha In-taek (‘Prince of the Cultural Circles in Korea’) and Mr. Ko Yeoung-tae, a close associate of Mrs. Choi--and discussed the affairs of the state.

Former Secretary General Lee Sung-han said, “At such meetings, the participants discussed matters related with personnel action and made decisions as to whom to appoint and/or to reject in the selection of the government minister(s), and discussed even such important matters of the state as the question of “whether or not to close down the Kaesung Industrial Park” (north of the DMZ).

The decision to close down the Kaesung Industrial Park was decided upon and carried out by the Republic of Korea (south) on Feb. 10 this year in response to North Korea’s 4th nuclear bomb testing and firing of long range missiles by North Korea.

If Former Secretary General Lee is right, what right and qualification did the private people with no official job titles or any professional background have to make decisions on such important and critical matters as to rock the safety of the nation to its marrow such as the South-North issues and relations?

▲President Park shows a sad-stricken appearance bowing to the nation at Cheong Wa Dae before making her apology.

Former Police Chief Superintendent Park Kwang-cheon, who was arrested last year on charges of leaking Chung Yoon-hui Document, is known to have stated at the Prosecution interrogations, “The hierarchy of power in the Republic of Korea is as follows: Mrs. Choi Soon-sil is Number 1, Chung Yun-hee is Number 2 and President Park Geun-hye is Number 3.”

The assertion was ignored at the time as being ‘groundless’ but now the statement merits a due review. The Mir K Sports Foundation was formed overnight and collected nearly 80 billion won ‘donated’ by Korean business companies. Would it have been possible without the support of President Park?

However, President Park tried to ignore the claims saying that they are unconfirmed charges and disclosures that are made at a time of emergency. President Park always stressed the importance of administration ‘based on trust and principle’ but this time it appears that she deceived the people.

President Park’s apology to the nation is an admission of the things that beg comparison even during the feudal days of Korea. And it was the very expression used by Presidential Chief Secretary Lee Won-jong (in his effort to deny the existence of such a practice). The President’s apology falls far short of the expectations of the people in soothing their anger. It appears that no one would be able to deny it if one should say that things that could happen only in the feudal days.

It appears that President Park did need report by the ministers face to face.
The shock of the Korean people is very big. Enter on the portal “Impeach Park Geun-hye” or “Park Geun-hye step down” and they occupy the top of the list. That much the shock on the part of the people is strong. The Korean people’s trust in President Park Geun-hue has fallen to the ground. It is difficult to predict that President Park will ever be able to maintain her authority.

President Park still has one year and four months to go. Now the Korean people have to worry about how the President could tide over the unprecedentedly critical situation which seems to be even worse than the economic crisis and national security problems.

Now the people have to worry about the President and the nation.

The case of Mrs. Choi’s monopolizing the affairs of the state even dwarfs the question of the Constitutional amendment discussions which have just begun in the Korean society as well as in the political arena in the country. Even this important discussion has lost its momentum due to the Choi case.

As a result, ironically an opinion is rising in favor of changing the five-year single Presidential term to a four-year term, where the President can seek one more term in office.

The Republic of Korea is virtually in a state of national emergency where the foundation of the state has fallen to the round on top of the security and economic crises. President Park Geun-hye should accept and agree to Special Prosecution investigations or the investigation of the administration.

Presidential Chief Secretary Lee Won-jong completely denied the leaking of the Presidential speech in advance of her actual use when he was quizzed on the subject at the Parliamentary Inspection of the Administration. Chief Presidential Secretary Woo Byung-woo for Civil Affairs who is in charge of the security and inspection at Cheong Wa Dae committed the crime of unwarranted abandonment of his official duty. It is only right that Chief Secretary Lee and Senior Secretaries Woo Byung-woo and Ahn Jong-bum leave Cheong Wa Dae together with other Presidential secretaries. The ruling Saenuri Party, too, should try to wake up! Now is the time for the people to be firm in their mind and protect the country.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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