Concrete action plans are neededPresident Park Geun-hye championed people’s happiness and economic recovery in her inaugural address two months ago. But the current situation threatens her presidency on security, economic and diplomatic fronts. North Korea suspended successful operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex - an icon of inter-Korean economic cooperation - while the economy is being hit by a double whammy of low growth and a weak yen. Despite a strong need for a “strategic alliance” before a nuclear-armed North Korea, Japan is bent on negating its past invasions to fuel nationalism.
In her first press conference yesterday with 46 top journalists since inauguration, the president energetically answered their questions and even wrote down their comments, giving the impression that she has regained confidence after being criticized for a lack of communication skills as commander in chief.
But self-confidence is just a minimum requirement for the president because she has to weather the crisis through concrete action plans.
Park reaffirmed her two-track North Korea policy: no more free aid or convenient compromise even while providing humanitarian assistance. That will likely invite strong opposition in the future such as a shutdown of the industrial park, a fourth nuclear test or another long-range missile launch. The president must resolve all issues carefully.
The president is expected to announce a framework for the peace and cooperation of Northeast Asia in her May visit to the United States to first promote cooperation on non-political issues like climate change, terrorism and nuclear reactors - but that’s not an easy job under heightened tensions from the North’s nuclear threats, Japan’s nationalist moves and territorial disputes.
The president also warned Japan that its relations with other Asian countries will deteriorate if it takes the wrong path. But she must find wisdom to persuade the nation to change its course with impeccable logic.
Park stressed that economic democratization and “creative economy” aimed at accelerating growth must go hand-in-hand. Yet the mixed signals from the government make people confused. We hope she puts her campaign promises into action by substantially adjusting her welfare pledges, encouraging business investment and forewarning about the danger of low growth.