Park visits scene of ship sinking

[Editorial] Lessons of 2013

[Editorial] Lessons of 2013

Park needs to talk with opposition leaders

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Published : 2013-12-19 19:37
Updated : 2013-12-19 19:37

One year has passed since Park Geun-hye was elected president by earning 51.6 percent of the vote against the 48 percent of her opponent, Moon Jae-in. In her acceptance speech, she promised to do many things, including achieving national reconciliation and launching a new era of happiness for all South Koreans.

Throughout 2013, however, she has had difficulties delivering on her campaign pledges. The government has submitted a host of reform bills to the National Assembly to implement her promises. But most of them still remain on the back burner.

The Assembly has long been in a vegetative state amid a stand off between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party over the allegations that the National Intelligence Service and other state organizations meddled in the presidential election.

The two parties have spent most of the year quarreling over the issue. The DP has never officially declared the election invalid and demanded a re-election. However, it has tenaciously sought to push Park and the ruling party into a corner and thereby gain the upper hand in politics.

The ruling party did not take the opposition party’s attack lying down. At every chance, it accused the DP of lacking the basic democratic virtue of conceding defeat in an election.

While the two parties have fought fiercely over the spy agency’s election meddling, Park has kept her distance from party politics. She has instead tried to focus on other issues, including international relations, national security and the economic recovery.

On the diplomatic and national security front, Park has fared unexpectedly well. But in other areas, her performance has been disappointing. Overall, her first-year job performance can be rated as average.

According to Gallup Korea, Park’s approval rating stood at 54 percent in December. This is not bad, in light of the number of votes she earned in the election a year ago. But it also suggests she has not been successful in winning over most of those who voted against her.

Respondents rated Park positively on diplomacy, national security, principled behavior and work ethics, while assessing her negatively on communication skills, transparency, statecraft, implementation of campaign pledges and team play.

The Gallup survey suggests ways that she could improve her performance next year. First of all, she needs to talk with opposition politicians. This has to be the first step toward normalizing the National Assembly and achieving national reconciliation.

Throughout the year, Park has refused to budge an inch to the DP on the NIS and other issues. She has chosen to stick to her principles. There is nothing wrong with holding firm to one’s values and principles. But sometimes you need to take a step back in order to leap forward.

By sticking to her principles, Park may have won acclaim from her supporters. But this has brought on a strong backlash from the DP. The opposition party’s refusal to cooperate in passing reform bills has hampered her efforts to speed up the economic recovery and improve people’s lives.

This has not been a lost year for Park. But she could have done much more had she maintained working relationships with opposition leaders. This is one of the lessons that she should bear in mind.

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