President Park Geun-hye said Monday that she “humbly accepted” the result of last Wednesday’s general election, in which the ruling conservative party faced a crushing defeat.
While acknowledging the rise of a majority opposition, Park also reiterated her economic reform drives, hinting at pushing ahead with the disputed pending bills in spite of resistance and asking for pan-partisan cooperation.
“The result of last week’s election made us reflect on the will of the people,” the president said in a regular meeting with top secretaries.
“(The government) will henceforth humbly accept the people’s will, prioritize their livelihoods, and work its best to promote the nation’s economic growth through the three-year reform plan.”
President Park Geun-hye speaks during a meeting with senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. (Yonhap)
This was the state leader’s first official mention of the election result, which allocated her Saenuri Party 122 seats in total, down from 152 won in the 2012 election and falling far below the parliamentary majority of 150.
The Minjoo Party of Korea took the lead in the house with 123 seats, while the new opposition People’s Party claimed 38.
Coinciding with the election debacle, the president’s approval ratings tumbled to a record-low.
In a public survey conducted by local pollster Realmeter on 1,012 respondents during the two days following the April 13 election, Park’s rating stood at 31.5 percent, down 8.1 percentage points from the previous week and the lowest during her three years and two months in office.
The Saenuri stood at 27.5 percent in ratings, down 7.3 percentage points, falling behind the Minjoo’s 30.4 percent.
“The government will closely cooperate with the incoming National Assembly, hoping to improve the nation’s economy and the people’s livelihoods,” Park said.
Through her remarks, the president was seen to offer a reconciliatory gesture to the incoming opposition party-dominated legislature, loosening her previous hardline stance of slamming the Assembly for being negligent and unpatriotic.
Up to the day before polling, Park had often pressured the parliament to “prioritize economic revitalization,” effectively holding the opposition liable for the pending economic and labor reform bills.
But the president’s unwavering emphasis on economic reforms indicated that there will be little change in the government’s policy frame, despite the decreased political momentum of the ruling party.
She also refrained from responding to the growing criticism that Cheong Wa Dae needs a shake-up to start afresh in step with the forthcoming parliament.
Her reserved stance triggered an immediate backlash from the two main opposition parties.
“The will of the people, reflected in the election result, is asking the government to stop its one-way communication and fundamentally change its policy core,” the Minjoo Party said through a statement.
“But President Park, despite the obvious judgment of the people, does not wish to change her thoughts, which is greatly disappointing.”
Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, the joint leader of the People’s Party, also urged Park to look back on her administration’s faults and to show responsible actions.
“Our party will stand against any move to distort the people’s will as shown in the election,” Ahn said at a party meeting following the president’s comments.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org