[Newsmaker] Park begins second year with old problems
Published : Dec 30, 2013 - 20:19
Updated : Dec 30, 2013 - 20:51
President Park Geun-hye

President Park Geun-hye enters her second year in office with a mass of tricky domestic issues unresolved and increasingly volatile dynamics in Northeast Asia.

Disputes over the National Intelligence Service’s alleged election meddling still haunt her government despite the political parties spending much of 2013 on the matter at the cost of state affairs being delayed.

With key elections slated for June and July, political wrangling is expected to further escalate in the New Year hampering her policy initiatives to boost the economy.

With the National Assembly being bogged down in political issues, Park’s creative economy pledge has floated without much progress while her welfare pledges were rolled back to the dismay and anger of the progressive bloc.

In addition, the president is also faced with resistance from across society, cutting her approval ratings to the lowest level since her inauguration in February.

In December, a number of Protestant orders joined factions of the Catholic Church and Buddhists in declaring a crisis, while labor unions have gone as far as announcing that they will fight for the removal of the Park administration.

The railway strike that began as the Korea Railroad Corp. union’s attempt to stop a subsidiary from being established spiraled out of control to pitch umbrella labor unions, including the hard-line Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, against the Park administration.

On top of seething domestic issues, the president is faced with deteriorating conditions in Northeast Asia.

North Korea under its young leader Kim Jong-un has proven to be anything but predictable. Last year the secluded regime saw the purging of Kim’s uncle Jang Song-thaek ― one of its most powerful men ― and Pyongyang has threatened of a “strike without warning.” Kim himself also issued an indirect threat saying “war is not something that is advertised beforehand.”

While North Korea continues its hard-line policy, Japan’s rightwing leadership has pushed Seoul-Tokyo and Tokyo-Beijing relations to a new low.

From ignoring its past wrongdoings and distorting history, Japan has now gone to actively disregarding its neighbors with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting the Yasukuni Shrine that honors Japan’s war dead including 14 class-A war criminals.

By Choi He-suk