President stands firm after referendum

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President stands firm after referendum

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President Park Geun-hye burns incense yesterday at the National Cemetery in Seoul, to honor fallen soldiers in the 1950-53 Korean War on Memorial Day. [NEWSIS]

President Park Geun-hye has reaffirmed her determination to reform the national safety system and corruption-ridden public sector after the opposition’s narrow victory in local elections.

“Without resolving deep-rooted, pervasive practices in our society, it would be difficult for us to not only secure public safety, but also realize happiness of people and economic revitalization,” she said yesterday in a Memorial Day address at the National Cemetery in Seoul. “The government will definitely fix the abnormal practices to create a safe nation, a new Republic of Korea.”

In the aftermath of the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry, Park again vowed to eliminate the perennial problem of collusion between the government and business sector that she believes was responsible for lax safety management and the failed, late attempts to rescue passengers trapped in the sunken ferry.

“The government will accelerate its policies to overhaul the national safety management system and reform the public sector, as well as boost the three-year economic innovation plan,” she said. “Without your active participation, this can’t be realized.”

Addressing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Park again called for the denuclearization of the regime and demanded that Pyongyang end military provocations against the South.

“If North Korea continues the development of its nuclear weapons and provocative threats, peace on the Korean Peninsula will still be a long way off,” she said. “If the North Korean regime indeed wants economic development and better lives for its people, it should first abandon its nuclear weapons program and provocative threats.”

Her call for rallying public support for her reform plans and economic agenda came after the ruling Saenuri Party lost nine of 17 metropolitan and gubernatorial races nationwide to the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy in Wednesday’s elections.

Still, after expecting a landslide victory, the NPAD was not thrilled with the results.

In fact, in the races for city council members and district office heads, the Saenuri Party won, 117 to 80.

Since the voting, concerns have started to emerge among NPAD members over their longtime political strategy against the Saenuri Party of attacking the president without suggesting any new policies.

During the campaign for the June election, NPAD candidates mostly chanted the slogan of “Punish the Park Geun-hye administration!” particularly after the sinking of the Sewol ferry.

“I think our strategy to punish Park Geun-hye does not draw the public’s attention,” Kim Boo-kyum, an NPAD front-runner defeated in Daegu in the local elections, told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“The strategy of punishing a president by an opposition party is actually an idea born in 1987” when democratic activists confronted the Chun Doo Hwan dictatorship, Lee Hyeon-wu, a politics professor at Sogang University, told the JoongAng Ilbo. “The opposition should be careful of using the strategy and appeal with it only when it could earn public support, just like in 1987.”

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]



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