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We need some magic too

Dec 14,2019
The gold at the 30th Southeast Asian Games was the culmination of the stunning rise of the underdog Vietnamese team under Korean coach Park Hang-seo. Korea’s national flag was visible among the Vietnamese flags on the streets on Tuesday night in a show of respect and gratitude to the small giant from Korea who has achieved the dream for Vietnam. Park has proven his leadership in the two years since moving to Vietnam in October 2017.

What Park has done for the national football team and society could be unimaginable. People have become different after witnessing the staggering transition under great leadership. They were refueled with pride in themselves and their national potential. Such positive energy is the result of genuine leadership. Upon returning home, Park was swept to the prime minister’s office where Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc was waiting to hug and thank him.

Korea also experienced the inspiration when it went as far as the semifinals at the 2002 World Cup under Dutch coach Guus Hiddink. Those who witnessed that frenzied summer will never forget the sensation they felt. Park, who was Hiddink’s assistant, has given the same precious gift to Vietnam. He identified the flaws in the team as an outsider and fixed them. Because of the similarities between their approaches, Park is dubbed “Rice-dink.”

After the Vietnamese squad surprisingly defeated Jordan in the round of 16 at the Asian Cup in January, goalie Dang Van Lam referred to Park as the master, father and big motivator. He said the coach strengthened them in every game. When Park was sent off for protesting a violent foul play during the match against Indonesia, the media likened him to a mother hen trying to protect her chicks.

It is a blessing to have a leader the nation can respect and love. Korea has not been so lucky. The government has been a disappointment. The supersized budget of 512 trillion won ($437 billion) was rubber-stamped at the National Assembly. Despite the snowballing allegations of power abuse by the Blue House, President Moon Jae-in stays mum. The only offensive the main opposition Liberty Korea Party manifested against controversial bills has been a strike.

Park brought his team to Korea for winter training. Korean politicians should watch him and learn how to be leaders while he’s here.