President Park Geun-hye gave her year-end press conference yesterday.
In case you were wondering, yes, that’s the first press conference she’s held in her term. You can read the address (and the subsequent Q&A) in Korean here.
As for the address, I didn’t find it terribly exciting. The Q&A, on the other hand, turned up some interesting nuggets.
Since many readers are interested in foreign policy, I’ll start there. President Park said she was willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but she didn’t want to have “talks just for talks,” and stressed the need for environment in which talks can lead to tangible results. A lot of folk found her use of the term “jackpot” (daebak) to describe Korean reunification to be rather interesting linguistically:
“Due to prohibitively high costs, some seem to be satisfied with the status quo of separation. But reunification is a ‘jackpot’ for us as shown by the fact that famous investors vow to invest all of their wealth in Korea after reunification. Our economy will be able to rack up a quantum leap,” she said.
I hope she’s right, because the more I see of Kim Jong-un, the more I think reunification is coming sooner than later.
She also said she’d be willing to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but she also suggested work needed to be done before that happened. She also called on Prime Minister Abe to, well, stop being a dick:
“Since taking office, I have wished to improve the relationship between Korea and Japan. And to build mutual trust, I have stressed an appropriate historic view and a sincere attitude,” Park said.
“It is regrettable that the atmosphere has been broken repeatedly at this important time when cooperation between the two nations must be expanded.”
On the domestic front, President Park wants us to know she’s really not such a bad communicator after all. In fact, the problem is really that society apparently doesn’t know what true communication is:
“I think that we are required to understand what communication really means. It is not communication to have pointless meetings or compromise against the interests of the people,” Park said.
“Thus far, even illegal demands were accepted if they continued. It is not right to criticize me for not condoning convention. Genuine communication is possible when everybody abides by the law and the law is appropriately enforced.”
If society accepts irrational requests in the guise of communication, she said that it will end up harboring more distortions, which eventually cause more problems for the people.
I don’t think that’s going to have the intended calming effect. It goes without saying that the Hani wasn’t impressed, but heck, even the Chosun Ilbo’s editorial team wrote that if the government wants to be pursuasive, it needs to free itself of its own irregularities and chronic problems before lecturing the public. It also notes that almost nowhere in the OECD does it take the head of government a full 10 months before she gives her first press conference.
UPDATE: Government officials are bitching to the Dong-A Ilbo that Japanese correspondents were “rude” during the press conference. More specifically, they apparently approached President Park and asked why they hadn’t been allowed to ask any questions. One official asked whether Korean correspondents in Tokyo have ever gone up to PM Abe and asked why they weren’t allowed to ask any questions.
Well, if it makes the Japanese reporters feel any better, they weren’t the only ones not allowed to ask any questions. As TK points out, the Q&A was an entirely scripted affair. Representatives were selected according to media type—national news dailies, broadcast media, regional papers, foreign media, etc. The Dong-A- says that in the case of national dailies, a lucky draw was held (which the Dong-A and Segye Ilbo won). Foreign media are normally allotted two questioners—one from the Western press and one from Asia. This time it was Reuters and China’s CCTV. Questions were sent to Cheong Wa Dae ahead of time.
I should point out that Cheong Wa Dae’s relationship with the press—and some of the newer media in particular—is very much something to watch.