(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 17)

When President Yoon Suk Yeol opted to address the ruling party's general election rout during a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, his choice of format spoke volumes, raising concerns about the significance placed on presentation over substance. Speaking at the start of the meeting that was aired live, Yoon said, "I will humbly accept the public's sentiment expressed through the general elections." Acknowledging criticism of his unilateral communication style, he added, "With a more humble stance and greater flexibility, I will engage in deeper communication and attentively listen to public sentiment." Regarding calls for him to cooperate with the large opposition bloc, he emphasized, "We must foster close collaboration with the National Assembly. It's imperative that we provide comprehensive explanations and engage in effective communication within the National Assembly." The April 10 general elections awarded the ruling People Power Party (PPP) 108 seats, while the opposition bloc secured 192 seats out of the t otal 300-seat National Assembly. This outcome demands a thorough retrospective analysis of the ruling bloc's performance over the past two years and necessitates the courage to engage with the formidable opposition bloc. However, the message, both in its content and format, raises questions about whether the president recognizes that "the buck stops" with him, in terms of being held accountable for election results, given his unilateral and uncommunicative governance style. The presidential office later added that Yoon apologized in person, saying that "I, as the president, am at fault first," in an undisclosed portion of the meeting. The election data offers valuable insights for the president. In the general elections, the PPP suffered a defeat to the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) by 5.4 percentage points in terms of contested votes earned. Considering that the president won by a margin of just 0.73 percentage point in the 2022 presidential election against the DPK's Lee Jae-myung, it mar ks a difference. While the deterioration in the public's livelihood is undeniably a significant source of voter discontent, the president must delve deeper into this dissatisfaction. It's crucial for him to recognize that people are yearning for greater fairness and inclusiveness in his pursuit of rightful objectives. The president's commitment to prioritize improving the livelihood of the public is undoubtedly commendable. However, the approach he has taken to achieve that goal has been fraught with issues. While he has emphasized his pursuit of a path aligned with national interests, he himself acknowledges that these efforts have fallen short of people's expectations. There's a palpable sentiment that the changes enacted have not been sufficiently felt by the populace. If Yoon wants his labor, education, pension and health care reforms to become the pillars of his presidential legacy, he must reconsider his approach to how he works and communicates. The 192-seat opposition bloc, which includes not only t he DPK but also the New Reform Party led by Lee Jun-seok, a former PPP leader, and the Rebuilding Korea Party led by former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, stands in clear opposition to the ruling bloc. Yoon must prioritize engaging with those who hold different views. Relying on presidential vetoes and persistently refusing to meet with the main opposition party leader or hold press conferences will not be a sustainable strategy. Indeed, a cooperative political environment could begin with the president meeting the leader of the DPK, who has recently renewed the offer for talks following the election. Despite the years-long calls for discussions to enhance the public's livelihood, there has been no response from the president, highlighting a missed opportunity for constructive dialogue. We hope the presidential office and the government will develop more innovative and collaborative ways to cooperate with the opposition bloc in the days ahead. While challenges persist, there remains ample opportunity for improve ment and the shaping of better governance and policies. The chief executive must think creatively, beginning with the upcoming reshuffle of presidential aides and the appointment of a new prime minister, by selecting those from the opposition if needed. This approach could signal a willingness to bridge divides and foster unity for the collective benefit of the nation. Source: Yonhap News Agency