Has The Turnaround Begun?

14 May

Yoon Chang-jung ApologizesThe Korean at TMH admits, “I do admire Park Geun-hye administration’s decisiveness in handling…” the scandal in South Korea over Yoon Chang-jung’s alleged sexual assault of a South Korean female intern in Washington, D.C. last week during the first official trip to the United States for South Korea’s first female president, Park Geun-hye. The Park administration has now apologized – to the South Korean nation, the victim, and to Korean-Americans – three times for the “unsavory act”, the latest by the administration’s public relations, Lee Nam-ki. It is also known that Yoon also acted inappropriately in New York. Whether Yoon’s behavior is the result of misogynistic or generational cultural attitudes of Korean men towards women is speculative. GI Korea finds Yoon’s statement, that “‘I deeply reflect (tapping the waste) because I belatedly have realized that I was not fully aware of American culture.'” rather bizarre. I question whether the Park administration is handling this crisis well.

Overall, apologies are inadequate. Just a quick perusal of a Wikipedia entry for “crisis management” offers a three-step process for handling a crisis:

  1. The diagnosis of the impending trouble or the danger signals.
  2. Choosing appropriate Turnaround Strategy.
  3. Implementation of the change process and its monitoring.

I’m not sure the Park administration has even begun the first step, or if it ever will. It has lanced a boil, but will it merely replace officials with perhaps female candidates? I would be interested to know if it has examined its selection and hiring process, or even questioned the attitudes that caused Yoon to commit the alleged behavior. Perhaps firing personnel seems resolute but it could also be arbitrary, because supervisors are not making decisions based on fair procedures or any plan to change the attitudes that led to the crisis.

I would ask what’s the difference between a man groping a younger woman and a woman firing a man, to protect her job? Another example of this arbitrariness is the presidential staff’s reaction in Washington when it realized Yoon was under investigation for the alleged act.

A Blue House official said on May 12 that recently sacked spokesman Yoon Chang-jung had needed to be “kept separated” from President Park Geun-hye’s entourage.

“You can’t have someone like that standing next to the President,” the official said of the alleged sexual harassment and flight from justice that took place while Yoon was accompanying Park on a visit to the US. The comments were an admission that Yoon’s return to South Korea was an official “separation” measure by the Blue House.

But with such decisions falling outside the authority of senior secretaries to make, questions are swirling over possible involvement by the Blue House leadership, including Chief of Staff Huh Tae-yeol. During a meeting with reporters on May 12, Senior Secretary to the President for Civil Affairs Kwak Sang-do said, “I think anyone with common sense could figure out whether it’s a good idea to have Yoon Chang-jung there next to the President during her visit.”

Kwak also said the order for Yoon to return “didn’t conflict with any South Korean or US laws.”

According to Kwak’s account, Yoon’s return from the US was a policy decision by the Blue House, and because he was only under indictment, it was not criminal flight from justice for him to return to South Korea.

Another senior Blue House official explained that Yoon “had to be kept separated from the main group” during the US visit.

“We couldn’t take him to Los Angeles with the President, and we couldn’t tell him to just stay in Washington by himself,” the official said.

Is this how a state’s top political officials should handle a crisis?

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