President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday visited Cheongju, some 130 kilometers south of Seoul, making her first contact with citizens outside of the capital after the April 16 Sewol tragedy.
The move was seen as a fresh attempt by the president to put state affairs back on track after the ferry disaster and a series of nomination debacles severely impaired her state management.
The president attended a ceremony to celebrate the integration of two cities in North Chungcheong Province ― Cheongju and Cheongwon ― where her party was defeated by opposition candidates in the gubernatorial elections held last month. Her visit to the central region was widely seen as a move to appeal to local voters ahead of the July 30 by-elections.
“The (central) government will provide support for the development of North Chungcheong Province,” she said in the ceremony, during which she was introduced as “the daughter of Chungbuk.” Her mother, late first lady Yook Young-soo was born in North Chungcheong Province.
In a meeting with local representatives and businesses, the president listened to them talk about difficulties in administrative and business affairs.
Later in the afternoon, the president visited a traditional market to meet and talk with merchants and citizens. She was also there to check on the state-led traditional market revitalization project, one of her state agendas, and to check on the local economy after the Sewol fiasco, officials said. For South Korean leaders and politicians, local markets have been a frequent place to visit to not only to woo voters but also to check on the people’s livelihood.
In the evening, the president also met representatives from small and medium-sized enterprises at Cheong Wa Dae and encouraged them to join hands to revitalize the economy.
A Cheong Wa Dae official told Yonhap that the president’s visit to the town in North Chungcheong Province, signifies a new beginning for her state management after Sewol.
Her leadership was dealt a serious blow over her government’s bungled response to the manmade disaster that killed nearly 300, who were mostly students on a school trip to Jejudo Island. The president also failed to find a new prime minister to spearhead her reform drive amid mounting opposition, and retained the incumbent Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, instead.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)