EDITORIAL: Presidential apology

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Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - South Korean President Park Geun-hye came forward Monday to apologize over allegations her now-dismissed spokesman molested a young Korean-American woman hired as his secretary while accompanying the president on her U.S. visit last week. Park broke her silence three days after the snowballing scandal came to the surface on the day she returned home.

It is not difficult to guess how embarrassed and frustrated she feels with the shameful misdemeanor by one of her close aides, which has engulfed the accomplishments of her otherwise successful first overseas trip as president. The scandal is also poised to deal a serious political blow to Park, who insisted on appointing Yoon Chang-jung, a former journalist, as her spokesman despite his negative public image.

Park fundamentally has herself to blame for the controversy. The clumsy and opaque way her aides handled the situation has exacerbated the furor, amplifying public anger and concerns.

During a weekly meeting with her senior secretaries, Park pledged to take whatever measures necessary to reveal every truth, saying those involved should take due responsibility. She should have been quicker to contain the fallout of the incident. It might have been more effective for the president to step forward first without having her public relations secretary and then chief of staff apologize.

Needless to say, the incident should serve as another - and hopefully final - lesson for Park to reflect on her way of making personnel appointments and managing her office. Another similar case will damage her presidency in an irrecoverable way. In this sense, she is advised again to pay more heed to critical voices.

What is also needed now is to deal with the incident, however embarrassing it is, in a measured way to prevent it from affecting major state affairs, especially Park's key diplomatic initiatives to settle nuclear threats from North Korea and ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

It may be natural for the main opposition Democratic United Party to seize on the case to put pressure on Park. But it appears to have gone too far in demanding that all of her senior secretaries resign en masse.

Consultations are under way between South Korean and Chinese diplomats to arrange for Park's visit to Beijing, which observers say may come as early as next month.

The outcome of her first summit with U.S. President Barack Obama would prove truly meaningful should it serve to make her upcoming China trip successful. Park, who is said to be cultivating a good relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, should get China to exert greater influence on North Korea to choose the right path, as she noted during a recent interview with a U.S. daily.

Preparations for her crucial visit to China should not be disrupted or held back by the scandal involving her insensible spokesman, who should have been dumped anyway.

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