It has been six months since the launch of the Park administration. In her inauguration speech, President Park opened “a new era of hope and happiness for all the people.” However, the administration already got itself mired in several scandals including a major personnel reshuffling of staff at the administration and sexual harassment allegations involving Yoon Chang-jung, President Park’s former spokesman. The administration is also having difficulties as the opposition parties are waging protests over some issues. The main opposition Democratic Party leader Kim Han-gil harshly criticized, “The Park administration should look back at the past 6 months and thoroughly examine whether it truly opened an era of happiness.”
There have been many ups and downs. First, there was no politics, but only control. President Park served as a lawmaker five times and yet, she distanced herself from ‘Yeouido politics,’ just like her predecessor Lee Myung-bak.
It is no coincidence that orthodox bureaucrats and those from academic circles account for more than 70% of new appointments of the cabinet and the Blue House. In politics, priority can be given to certain urgent issues so that they can be handled first. However, this is an unlikely scenario when a leader has too much control. In the same context, when the president ignores politics and only focuses on governing, confrontation and conflicts will abound. This is exactly what happened in the last six months.
Second, there was only division, no integration. In her presidential campaign, Park promised that she would unite the nation and encourage national integration by removing nepotism in the Blue House and throughout the administration. That promise, however, was not kept.
At the same time, President Park broke her pledge to show respect toward the National Assembly and opposition parties. Recently, opposition parties took to the streets, severely criticizing the government and the ruling party about allegations that the National Intelligence Service interfered with last year’s presidential election. Meanwhile the Blue House refused an offer from the Democratic Party Rep. Kim Han-gil to hold one-on-one talks.
Third, the administration only concentrated on expanding welfare benefits, instead of securing funds. About KRW 135 trillion is required to provide the benefits the government promised. But the budget for the first half of this year alone is short of KRW 1 trillion in revenue. Nevertheless, the government is obsessed with unrealistic goals. To avoid criticism that the government is trying to increase tax burden on the middle class, it unveiled a tax code reform.
Fourth, President Park did a better job with diplomacy than with domestic affairs. She scored high marks for her visits to the U.S. and China. In addition, the public showed great support for her principles and policies toward North Korea. On the other hand, she scored low for her other visions including creative economy, economic democratization, and job creation.
Fifth, the public could not truly benefit from economic growth or other changes in national policies. During meetings with the State Council and senior secretaries, President Park emphasized the importance of implementing policies. Nevertheless, the public could not truly enjoy benefits. She recently announced, “We will take the lead to bring about change so that the problems of the past will be solved.” Now it is the right time for the Park administration to recover people’s trust in politics, strengthen social integration, improve the welfare system, better administer internal affairs, and ensure that economic growth and policy changes actually benefit the public.