Grim 63rd birthday for president

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Grim 63rd birthday for president

President Park Geun-hye, who turned 63 Monday, pledged to “coordinate policies” through close consultations with the ruling party, cabinet members and Blue House officials, according to her senior press secretary, “so as not to cause public concern.”

The vow was made after the president’s approval ratings took a tumble last month, sinking below the 30 percent mark for the first time in multiple polls.

“Such policy coordination will be possible with the establishment of a new ruling party floor leadership, as well as the decision to launch a routine joint conference to coordinate and review government policies during an emergency meeting Sunday,” Yoon Doo-hyun, the senior secretary for public relations, quotes Park saying Monday.

The president appears to be showing her intention to amp up her communication skills amid criticism that she is out of touch with public sentiment and that her administration failed to properly coordinate its policies on income taxes and health insurance reforms.

Park had a small luncheon for 17 aides including Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon at her residence in central Seoul to celebrate her 63d birthday.

This is the first time Park shared a meal with her senior secretaries at her residence this year.

Initially, Park intended to spend her birthday quietly, but her aides told the president that they wanted to at least have lunch with her on the occasion.

Over the lunch, they discussed entering the third year of the Park administration, the results of the Saenuri floor leadership election and the drop in presidential approval ratings.

Yoon also said that the president plans to “listen through various channels,” be it the Saenuri Party, Blue House officials, as well as public sentiment.

A Blue House official said, “President Park has already begun to change,” adding that she has held casuals meetings with her cabinet members and presidential secretaries.

Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, asked Park to “consult on everything with the party” in a supreme council meeting of the party on Monday.

“I hope President Park Geun-hye doesn’t forget the fact that behind her is a party with the force of a million, and that she will consult about any difficulties with the party,” he said.

“Amid all the troubles, my heart is heavy wondering who will prepare a warm birthday for the president.”

With the election of new Saenuri floor leader Yoo Seong-min, Park is expected to complete a reshuffling of the Blue House officials.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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