Park Geun-hye issues statement on May 16, yushin

Who’s sorry now? Apparently Park Geun-hye is. In what was anticipated to be Obama-on-race or Romney-on-religion moment, Park Geun-hye held a press conference to issue a statement regarding her father’s legacy. In the key part of the statement, Park said:

“I know well that my father’s desperate desire and agony for improving the people’s lives, while knowing that he would later face criticism and denunciation, were sincere. But the fact that the ends cannot justify the means in politics has been and will be a democratic value. Therefore, I believe that May 16, yushin and the People’s Revolutionary Party incident caused damage to our constitutional values, and delayed the advancement of Korean politics. I once again offer my sincere apology to those who were hurt and injured through this.”

Obviously, this is a significant change from her previous stance — as recently as last July, Park said May 16 was an “unavoidable, best possible choice.” Park also said, as the president, she would form a committee of national unification to address the reparation for the injuries caused by the dictatorship era.

Other presidential candidates welcomed her speech. Ahn Cheol-soo said “Park did what was very difficult, but had to be done,” and also said he believed she was sincere in her statements. Moon Jae-in said he welcomed Park’s apologies, and hoped that it would serve as a starting point for national reconciliation.

Park’s statement — particularly about the part about how “ends cannot justify the means” — has put Korea’s conservatives in an awkward place, since when it comes to Park Chung-hee’s legacy, they have been arguing the exact opposite: that is, Park Chung-hee’s dictatorship was justified because he protected South Korea from North Korea and elevated South Korea from poverty. The night before the press conference, NFP’s spokesman Kim Jae-won apparently told reporters that Park Geun-hye entered into politics to restore her father’s honor, and her issuance of the statement is akin to Peter’s denial of Jesus. Kim resigned since then. (Kim was the NFP spokesman for exactly one day. His predecessor recently resigned after threatening Ahn Cheol-soo.)

More direct to the point was Cho Gab-je, a well-known conservative pundit and biographer of Park Chung-hee, who wrote that Park Geun-hye’s statement was an “anti-historical apology that spat on her father and her country.” Cho also wrote: “Ms. Park’s apology is not sincere; it is a political show for votes. She committed filial defilement and national disloyalty [불효, 불충] by denying wholesale Korea’s modern history and spitting on her father’s grave. Just ten days ago, her stance was to defend her father and leave the judgment to history. How does a person’s stance change 180-degrees in this short period of time? This is evidence that she cast away her conscience for political purposes.”

  • JW

    The Cho Gab-je link is not working for me. Anyone else having issue?

  • Q

    She made an apology in the morning and danced psy’s Gangnam style dance in the afternoon. She was a ‘반전있는 여자’ of Gangnam style. I like both princess PGH and prince Charles Ahn. I see hope in this election.

  • Adams-awry

    Seems she’d say anything to get into power. That’s one dangerous woman.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    It’s hard to think of an election in which the electorate could be less certain of what the two leading candidates would actually do once in power.

  • brier

    I like her moves. Its about time she comes out from her father’s shadow and develops her own groove. Its people wanting her to be like her father who are the sorry and deluded. Good on her!

  • Veritas

    Apology is good and all but you have to wonder whether she’s really being sincere about it – or just going for the votes. As already stated, this is a dramatic departure from her previous stance – unless she’s willing to argue that her father’s dictatorship was the “unavoidable, best possible choice” and yet also apologize because “ends cannot justify the means”. She can, of course, but it would be a very delicate position to take – take one step in the wrong direction and there’s a possibility of alienating both the conservative and liberal voter base.

  • guitard

    Apology is good and all but you have to wonder whether she’s really being sincere . . .

    An apology (political or otherwise) is seldom sincere. It is simply an “easy out” that society has devised.

  • Maximus2008

    “An apology (political or otherwise) is seldom sincere. It is simply an “easy out” that society has devised.”

    That. In Korea, people demand apologies (PGH, Japan, USA, NK, Britney Spears, everyone), but when people apologize, Koreans do not believe it. So why apologize??? Nobody will believe it anyway!

  • slim

    This has been turned into a book about the questionable utility of apologies in international politics.

  • thekorean

    when people apologize, Koreans do not believe it. So why apologize?

    1. Did you even read the post? The two opposing presidential candidates welcomed PGH’s apology and considered it sincere.

    2. In most normal human interactions, apology is the first step toward reformed behavior. The problem arises when no reformed behavior follows the apology, i.e. the case with Japan.

  • Veritas

    “An apology (political or otherwise) is seldom sincere. It is simply an “easy out” that society has devised.”

    While I’m inclined to agree to a certain point, in the world of politics an un-sincere apology can be more damaging in the long run than not issuing an apology (or in other words, simply ignoring the issue or sticking to an unapologetic stance, depending on the issue). As I stated before, whether the apology is sincere or not it’s still a departure from her previous stance – or at least, it seems so. Unless she’s very careful about what she says next concerning this subject, this apology might come back and bite her.

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