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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on March 15)

2017/03/15 07:18

Early presidential election

-This time, voters must pick a good communicator-

The nation has been thrust into an early presidential election after the Constitutional Court's March 10 decision to dismiss Park Geun-hye from office.

Many people will agree that the ousted former president's biggest fault as a leader besides corruption was that she did not know how to communicate.

Park rarely met with secretaries and ministers in her Cabinet. Many people were shocked when former Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun said during a National Assembly hearing last year that she never met President Park one on one. Park was also notorious for her disregard for the press. Former Presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Dae-jung held 150 press conferences while in office, but Park held only five.

When one reporter asked whether she should be briefed more in person, she said "Do you think I need to do that?" The question showed that Park had no awareness of how to interact properly with even those who worked closely with her.

Park's poor communication skills were also reflected in how she underutilized SNS. Her Facebook and Twitter accounts mostly featured her overseas trips and New Year greetings. This is in contrast to leaders like former U.S. President Barack Obama, who established a reputation as an accessible, caring leader with an active social media presence.

Park's failure underlines the paramount importance of online and offline communication skills in our next president. Several qualities can define an effective communicator. First, the next president should embrace every chance to communicate with the press. He or she should hold press conferences with Cheong Wa Dae correspondents regularly. We want a president who holds heated debates with reporters.

Second, the next president should exchange policy ideas and suggestions with people from all walks of life. This can be done through live TV discussions with people in various professions. The next leader should also spend more time talking to those who need special policy attention, such as working mothers or the elderly.

Third, the next leader should welcome criticism and see it as a way to improve his or her policies, rather than getting angry and trying to crush opponents. This is not something we wish to see in a mature leader. This is why we need someone who is willing to cooperate with the National Assembly and meet often even with opposition leaders. Finally, we need someone who speaks a language of hope and unity, not a language of division.

Voters must thoroughly verify and assess candidates' core competencies, such as communication skills, before they make their decision in May.