Breaking a long silence, President Park Geun-hye promised on Thursday to look closely into an allegation that the National Intelligence Service engaged in an online smear campaign against the opposition candidate during the run-up to the presidential election last year.
She also promised that her administration would take steps to ensure that there will be no such lawbreaking after the court comes up with a ruling on the case.
Now the question is why she has waited until now. She could have avoided a lot of political damage if she had made remarks on the case when allegations were newly raised about the military’s cyber warfare unit being also involved in the smear campaign a few weeks ago, if not when the case first broke several months ago.
According to a survey of public opinion conducted by the pollster Research View on Monday, her approval rating plummeted 7.4 points from 54 percent a month ago. The decline was mainly attributed to public suspicions of electioneering by the spy agency and the Cyber Warfare Command and the political elite’s interference in the prosecution’s investigation into the case.
Prime Minister Chung Hong-won did take up the issue when he addressed the nation on Sunday. But his remarks apparently fell short of public expectations. With pressure still mounting on Park to deal directly with it, she addressed the issue when she held a conference with her senior advisers on Thursday. It was better late than never.
She reaffirmed her commitment to democracy, saying that she has upheld the democratic principle since she started her political career and that there is no change in her commitment. She promised her administration will shed light on suspicions that government agencies intervened in the presidential election and that they will be held accountable if the allegations are found to be true.
As she promised, her administration will have to ensure that all government agencies and all public officeholders abide by their statutory obligation to stay away from politics. Their intervention will undermine the democratic political process the nation established after a long struggle against the military-backed dictatorships.
Park asked too much of the opposition party when she proposed a truce until the court makes a decision on the case involving the spy agency and the passage of urgent bills. The aggrieved opposition will undoubtedly continue to dig into the case no matter what.
A more realistic approach is for her administration to call for the opposition’s cooperation in legislation without mentioning a truce, which looks to be out of the question.