A real test awaits Park

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A real test awaits Park

After the stunning victory for the ruling Saenuri Party in the April 11 general election, the entire nation’s attention is focused on Park Geun-hye, chairwoman of the emergency leadership council of the party. She has not only become a real leader of the majority party in the 19th National Assembly but also successfully consolidated her image as a strong presidential hopeful in the December election. Now she also faces a daunting challenge: taking responsibility for deftly steering the rehabilitated party until the presidential election.

Park’s press conference yesterday shows she is well aware of the responsibility to meet expectations. She has vowed to repeal outmoded politics, implement what she promised to the people and overcome conflict in our society. But the problem is how to put the commitments into action.

Park should first mend the internal schism from the run-up to the legislative election. She promised to enact a law aimed at banning the government from conducting illegal spying on unfriendly politicians and civilians. But at the same time, she must beef up efforts to get to the bottom of the administration’s illegal surveillance scandal through an appointment of a special prosecutor.

Opening the 19th National Assembly is also a top priority on Park’s to-do list. Whenever a new National Assembly convenes, it turns to gridlock owing to sharp conflicts over how to assign major posts of the parliament to each party. It may not be easy to negotiate with a much bigger opposition party. But it all depends on her capability as leader of the majority party.

Her future relationship with President Lee Myung-bak is a tricky issue. Though she can criticize the president for wrong policies, excessively distancing herself from Lee - brazenly demanding his departure from the Saenuri Party, for instance - can backfire as it could exacerbate the internal division and obstruct presidential governance until Lee’s term ends next February. How to minimize the debilitating effects of a lame duck administration is ultimately up to Park’s scrupulous leadership for the remaining eight months. As a strong presidential hopeful and a de facto caretaker of politics, Park should be prudent in drafting policies and developing commitments.

At the same time, she should watch closely her followers who appear to have opened a bottle of champagne as if she already became our next president. Park’s power awaits one more test.
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