‘Park sinks deeper into political crisis’

‘Park sinks deeper into political crisis’
President Park Geun-hye

 What many Korean people loved about President Park Geun-hye was her leadership based on principle and rule of law, her image of being firm and unwavering, as well as her spirit as a fighter with the determination needed to ride out a storm.

So there was some optimism when the nation's first female leader took power two years ago, vowing to usher in "an era of happiness" through a creative economy, expanded welfare and trust-building between the two divided Koreas.

Contrary to those expectations, President Park who has just entered her third year in office, now faces a political crisis, beset by deepening public distrust in her leadership and an escalating feud with her ruling party.

Her approval ratings plummeted more than 10 percentage points in three weeks to below 30 per cent on Jan. 27. It was her lowest rating since she entered office and far lower than when her leadership was questioned in the wake of the Sewol ferry accident. Her disapproval rating also polled above 60 per cent for the first time.

Gallup Korea noted recently that its survey showed that the positive ratings of Park among those in their 50s ― often regarded as the president's core support group ― have started to decline. Even among supporters of the ruling Saenuri Party, 37 per cent said they disapproved of her state management.

A series of political scandals involving conflicting groups of aides as well as the government's inconsistent policies on tax and health insurance have damaged her credibility.

Presidential documents were leaked to media late last year, raising speculation over lax discipline within Cheong Wa Dae. Park has also come under fire after she refused to abandon her aides involved in a related influence-peddling scandal.

In her New Year's news conference, Park said she would keep them by her side, despite growing demand from opposition parties and the public. The president said she trusted the three secretaries, citing the prosecution's investigation that concluded the scandal as groundless.

She continued to struggle over her tax policies as the government's initial plan to revise the tax settlement scheme backtracked in the face of public worries that the middle class will have to pay more.

But the greatest fault, critics say, is her "rigid" and "closed-off" leadership that has failed to embrace public demands.

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