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Time to ease anger on the streets and return to normalcy

Time to ease anger on the streets and return to normalcy

Posted March. 11, 2017 07:03,   

Updated March. 11, 2017 07:08


Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn issued a public statement on Saturday in which he said, “I feel deep responsibility in the wake of the first of its kind ever in Korea’s constitutional history,” urging people to overcome divide of national opinions that are split into two namely those who supported presidential impeachment and those against it. Soon after the Constitutional Court upheld presidential impeachment, the acting president called an emergency Cabinet meeting and a National Security Council meeting in succession, and instructed the administration to be thoroughly prepared in the areas of national security, economy, and diplomacy. However, he stopped short of mentioning whether he will run in the presidential election or not.


Acting President Hwang has indicated that he might seek to run in the presidential election depending on how the situation unfolds, by giving ambiguous answers to the question of whether he will run as candidate. He might have taken a stance of "strategic ambiguity" in preparation for the Constitutional Court's possible turndown of President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, but it is time that he declared he would not run. If he chooses to run, Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Yoo Il-ho will take over the acting presidency from Hwang, and will come to triple as "Acting President, Acting Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for Economy," a position that is unprecedented. This will inevitably cause disruptions in state administration. Hwang, who served as prime minister under former President Park, is not free from the responsibilities of the Park administration. If he continues his duty as Acting President while remaining ambiguous, he could spawn misunderstanding that the referee is running as a player (presidential candidate).

In order for Korea to overcome the grave crisis of the nation wherein the presidency is vacant, Hwang should step up alert over and preparedness for North Korea’s possible provocations by placing national security as the top agenda in state administration. There are reportedly already signs that North Korea is preparing for a sixth nuclear test, with activities monitored at mines in the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea. It is fortunate that the South Korean financial market did not fluctuate as uncertainty over the presidential impeachment has been eased. Foreign investors will keep a close watch on whether Hwang has leadership that will enable Korea to elbow through the crisis, before making investment decisions.

Just as important as national security and economy is to manage the presidential election that will take place within 60 days in the most fair and just fashion. The acting president is obliged to thoroughly manage related government agencies including the Interior Ministry and local governments to ensure they maintain political neutrality. The government should closely monitor and sternly crack down to prevent compromising of discipline in officialdom in which civil servants chase after leading presidential candidates to seek opportunities by taking advantage of chaotic mood ahead of the presidential election.