(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 20)

The presidential office disclosed several photos of Kim taken during and on the sidelines of the Korea-Cambodia summit held in Yongsan District, Seoul, on Thursday. The photo release signals her return to official activities as first lady after a five-month hiatus following the stir she created by accepting a Dior bag from a pastor. Kim should not blow the second chance she has been given by repeating the same mistakes she made over the first two years since her husband President Yoon Suk Yeol took office. She faces challenging times ahead, requiring heightened vigilance regarding her actions and their consequences to stay on course. Kim's return to the public eye comes as prosecutors embark on a probe into her alleged involvement in stock manipulation. The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) is poised to push through a motion to introduce an independent counsel to investigate allegations involving the first lady. The president has three years remaining in his. Kim's role as first lady is not something that can be denied or ignored. In that sense, the main opposition DPK's criticism of Kim returning to her official duties as first lady is unfounded and ultimately pointless. DPK spokesperson Choi Min-seok claimed that Kim resumed her official activities despite mounting calls to investigate her. "How blatant she is! It seems that she is ignoring the (Korean) public," he said in a statement released on Thursday. But the DPK spokesperson missed the point. Like it or not, the first lady is the first lady. As long as Yoon is president, Kim will hold that position. Although emotional, the DPK spokesman's criticism does have a valid point , and both the first lady and the presidential office staff assisting her should consider that carefully. Kim needs to meet the public's expectations of her. As first lady, Kim is expected to act responsibly and think carefully about the consequences of her deeds and words, before she acts and speaks. She should not leave room for potential misunderstandings about her motives or actions. Koreans have high expectations of their country's first lady. Public opinion surveys show that the Korean public prefers a selfless, quiet first lady who reaches out to the poorest of the poor and disadvantaged people who are excluded from protections offered by Korea's social safety net. Although this may sound rather traditional and conservative, there is a reason behind such a point of view. The first lady is not the one who governs the country. That is the job of her husband, who was elected and given the mandate to oversee state affairs. Because of her husband, the first lady receives many privileges that come with a lot of responsibilities. Living up to the public's expectations is part of first lady's duties, as her official activities are financed by taxpayer money. Ideally speaking, the first lady is the person who knows the virtue of stepping back to let her husband, not herself, shine and helps her spouse maintain focus on urgent state affairs, without being distracted b y controversies sparked by her. Cleaning up a mess created by his spouse is not something the president is supposed to do. During a news conference held earlier this month, the president apologized on behalf of his wife about the Dior bag scandal. It was long overdue. He had an opportunity to offer a timely apology during an interview with KBS which aired in February, but he blew it by defending his wife's actions. His stubbornness backfired, causing the ruling party to suffer a major defeat the April 10 elections. As a result, Yoon himself is paying the price, as the election outcomes have impeded the progression of his initiatives in the National Assembly. Offering an apology is one thing and accepting it is another. Nobody knows whether Yoon's apologies were accepted or not. But one thing that is certain is that his apology should be a starting point of a shift in his attitude toward the Korean public during his remaining three years in office. The first couple should keep trying to win the hearts of the public by unveiling a sequence of genuine and sincere measures. They must follow through on their promises in order to regain the public's trust and recover Yoon's continually falling approval ratings. Source: Yonhap News Agency