Nothing to approve of

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Nothing to approve of

President Park Geun-hye’s approval rating fell below 30 percent, according to a Realmeter survey Tuesday. Park is the first president in Korea whose support rate dropped below 30 percent, the Maginot Line for governance, going into a third year in office. More worrisome is the public’s overwhelming negative attitude toward her performance as president: 62.9 percent disapproved versus the 29.7 percent who approved. If this trend continues, it will likely push her presidency into a lame-duck situation earlier than any of her predecessors.

Park announced a minor shuffle of her cabinet, including the nomination of former Saenuri Party floor leader Lee Wan-koo as prime minister, to simulate a fresh start. But she did not replace her chief of staff Kim Ki-choon and also maintained the controversial three aides referred to as “doorknobs” for their control of access to the president. Her nomination of Lee as prime minister was shrugged off by the public, which considers him yet another politician from the pro-Park group in the ruling party, along with Deputy Prime Minster for the Economy Choi Kyung-hwan and Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs Hwang Woo-yea.

Lee has played a positive role as floor leader in communicating with the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy. But it’s not clear whether he can speak to the president bluntly. Park’s reshuffle was far from her pledge of regionally-balanced appointments, as seen in a 50 percent disapproval level in the Realmeter poll and a growing number of Saenuri Party lawmakers who call for a fundamental change in her governance style.

If Park wants to get over this crisis, she must change her appointment style. She does not have to look into her little black book to find candidates for high-profile positions in the government. She must pick people with abilities, integrity and communication skills. We hope to see new, qualified faces in her future appointments. Also, the president must create an atmosphere in which ministers and senior secretaries can say no to her. The public is tired of yes men.

Former Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Lee Ju-young and Rep. Yoo Seung-min vowed to say whatever they wanted to the president before running for floor leader of the ruling party. Only a few believe they kept their promise due to her distant governance style. As long as the president is not willing to listen to a prime minister or floor leader, cooperation among the ruling party, the Assembly and Blue House will be damaged. If the president doesn’t change, she won’t regain public support.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 29, Page 30

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