By Park Si-soo
President Park Geun-hye shed tears on her way back to Seoul from a fire-ravaged market in Daegu, her spokesman said on Thursday -- believe it or not.
The spokesman might have spoken of Park's emotion to emphasize the embattled President's "sincere sympathy" for victims of the blaze in the face of deepening public distrust of herself.
But now few take the comment at face value. Rather, most people consider it as yet another political gimmick to help Park survive the ongoing crisis and extend her span in office. And her behavior at the gutted Seomun Market shows why.
Park spent only 10 minutes inspecting the site, surrounded by multiple layers of security guards and keeping affected merchants at bay.
She even gave Cheong Wa Dae press corps the slip by giving wrong information about her visit to the market -- the presidential office said Park would arrive at 3 p.m., but she appeared at 1:30 p.m. Reporters checking damage at the market accidently spotted her.
The only civilian Park met and talked with during the visit was Kim Young-ho, leader of the market's merchants' association. The dialogue between the two remains unpublished.
|Firefighters extinguish the remains of the fire at Daegu Seomun Market on Thursday morning. / Yonhap|
Merchants there vented fury at the President.
In a video clip recorded at the scene, Do Gi-suk, a clothing retailer whose store was burned down, shouted, "Ten minutes! Are you kidding?"
He said, "She (Park) should have met and talked with affected people and discussed how to help us, but she didn't ... If she came here without planning to do this, why did she come?"
Surrounding people hailed his outburst.
Another affected retailer Jung Sung-boon said, "When I was told about Park's visit, I thought she would at least go around the affected merchants."
Many political analysts and commentators lambasted Park's visit, labeling it a "political show" or "jaunt" by the scandal-plagued of state, who was unable to move out of the presidential office for more than a month.
Meanwhile, the fire, which started at 2 a.m. on Wednesday in zone four, was put out Thursday afternoon after destroying nearly 700 stores, the worst-ever damage to the market, which has nearly a 400-year history.
Zone four stores sell inflammable materials like clothes, bedding units and curtains
Daegu City is moving to declare the site a "special disaster zone" and provide financial aid to affected people.