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News Analysis: Park Geun-hye's first year: principle vs. non-communication

English.news.cn   2014-02-25 10:42:26

By Yoo Seungki

SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who entered the second year in office Tuesday, was facing contrary evaluation over her performance.

Park was branded as the "iron lady" as she held fast to her principle in diplomatic and security affairs, but this principle was seen as excessive rigidness or lack of communication, especially in domestic politics.

The first South Korean female president stuck to her principle in tackling the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), resulting in the first high-level inter-Korean talks in around seven years and the first reunion of families separated by the Korean War in more than three years.

Park took office amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK staged its third nuclear test in February 2013, two months after launching a three-stage rocket suspected by South Korea as test-fire of long-range missile.

The DPRK also halted operations of the joint industrial zone in its border town of Kaesong in protest against the annual joint South Korea-U.S. military drills.

Park's adhesion to her signature "trust-building" policy induced Pyongyang to change its attitude, ending up with tensions eased on the peninsula, South Koreans believed.

According to a Feb. 10-14 survey by local pollster Realmeter of 2,500 adults, Park's approval rate stood at 56.4 percent. Another survey by Gallup Korea, 55 percent of 1,208 respondents gave high marks for her performance in the past year, citing principled policies on diplomatic and security affairs.

The supporting rate was higher than 51.6 percent of the vote Park garnered during the 2012 presidential election, and was the second highest among South Korean presidents going into the second year in office.

Summit diplomacy with four major powers, including the United States, China, Russia and Japan, helped Park gain high scores. Park's approval rate jumped in May 2013 when she met with her U.S. counterpart Barack Obama. It was dented by the sexual molestation scandal by Park's former spokesman during her visit to Washington, but the rate surged after summit talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping a month later.

Ties between Seoul and Tokyo have worsened since she took office, but her refusal to hold summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was seen as a right thing to do as Abe denied Japan's militaristic past and provoked neighbors with territorial claims.

Park's adherence to her principle applied to foreign and security policies was interpreted as rigidness and lack of communication in internal politics. Park refused to talk with opposition lawmakers when suspicions spread over the spy agency's intervention in the 2012 presidential election by posting negative online comments on then opposition candidate Moon Jae-in.

Around one and a half months after the Democratic Party lawmakers took to the streets and set up a makeshift office, Park met with leaders of the opposition party, but they failed to break the political impasse. Park actually ignored all demands from the opposition party for her apology to the alleged intervention, special prosecutor's probe into the allegation and reform of the intelligence agency by outside experts.

One day ahead of the Park administration's first anniversary, the opposition party leader Kim Han-gil said that the first year under President Park can be characterized as lack of communication, trust and stability, giving the Park government a failing grade.

The ruling Saenuri Party credited the government with establishing two great foundations in national security and economy, but even some ruling party lawmakers discredited Park's communication skills.

Rep. Shim Jae-chul, a member of the ruling party's supreme council, said the presidential office should exercise its political leverage further given the incessant conflicts with the opposition party, calling for Park to resolve criticism against her, including lack of communication, obsessive attention even to minute state affairs and secretive personnel appointments.

Lack of communication was also found in contacts with reporters covering the presidential office. Park rarely met with journalists unlike her predecessors, with the Jan. 6 New Year's press conference being the only direct contact with reporters since her inauguration.

It may stem from Park's unfortunate days of youth, losing parents in her 20s. Park's mother, former first lady Yook Young- soo, was gunned down by an assassin in 1974. Five years later, Park's father, former President Park Chung-hee, was assassinated by his right-hand man.

Given the possible distrust even to her closest aides, lack of communication with others may be an inevitable consequence.

Editor: Yang Yi
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