President Lee Myung-bak has made a public apology for corruption involving his relatives and aides, saying, Disgraceful incidents have recently happened to my family and surroundings, causing so much anxiety to the people. I feel completely disheartened and hardly can look in the eyes of people. I take a deep bow to apologize, he added. As I think again, I feel disheartened all the more. I can hardly look into the eyes of the people. Truly deplorable incidents have happened right around me. All these are my responsibility, and I will fully accept whatever criticism is made against me, he said in expressing remorse and regret. He said, however, Situations in and out of the country are so urgent for me to just deplore and atone for, so I can never neglect my duties as president, adding, It is my responsibility to redouble efforts to rectify state administration by renewing my commitment.
The president`s latest apology was his third for corruption scandals involving his relatives and aides after the first delivered in his New Years address and the second in a news conference marking the fourth anniversary of his inauguration in February. The previous two apologies were about scandals involving his key aides, including Kim Doo-woo, former presidential secretary for public relations; Shin Jae-min, former vice culture, sports and tourism minister; and Eun Jin-soo, former auditor of the Board of Audit and Inspection. But the previous statements could not be construed as public apologies in wording and content. President Lee, however, had no other choice but to elevate the degree of apology this time since the corruption scandals involved Lee Sang-deuk, his elder brother and former ruling party lawmaker; Choi See-joong, former chairman of the Korea Communications Commission and main contributor to his presidency; Park Young-joon, former vice knowledge economy minister; and Kim Hee-joong, his personal secretary.
But considering the format of the apology made, it is questionable if President Lee is sincerely sorry. The schedule for his apology was notified to presidential office correspondents at 1:40 p.m. Tuesday. Common sense says an issue of such importance should have been informed at least several hours in advance, if not days. But President Lee made his apology at 2 p.m., when the three major terrestrial broadcast networks were jointly broadcasting live the first TV debate between presidential hopefuls of the ruling Saenuri Party as part of its primary. For this reason, news on his apology was only delivered in the form of brief subtitles. One can hardly understand if it is acceptable to the people that the president makes a public apology in such a way over corruption involving his relatives and closes aides, an issue of keen public interest.
News that President Lee was preparing a public apology was circulated days ago, and watchers expected the apology would come around the time when Lee Sang-deuk was indicted. Belieing such expectations, however, President Lee chose to make a surprise apology as if in a hurry. The way a president makes an apology is just as important as its content. The way he made his apology deserves criticism that he only wanted to leave the message for record keeping or deliver it as a formality.