Second half challengesThe second half of the Park Geun-hye administration has kicked off amid an utterly precarious security, economic and international diplomatic environment. President Park invited members of the ruling Saenuri Party to the Blue House for a luncheon meeting yesterday. They chose four major reforms, including economic revitalization and labor reforms, as top items on the agenda for the second half of the five-year single presidential term.
The ruling party has to confront two daunting challenges - how to weather drastic security fluctuations on the Korean Peninsula and how to revive a supine economy - during the remainder of Park’s term, which ends in February 2018. With 169 seats in the National Assembly - far more than a majority - the Saenuri Party has been representing the largely conservative mainstream faction of Korean society and has been in power except for a decade under two liberal presidents, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, from 2003 to 2013. The responsibility for navigating turbulent tides of change falls on the party.
Historically, the party has experienced more North Korean provocations than the opposition did, as seen in the North’s submarine infiltration of waters off the coast of Gangneung, Gangwon, the fatal sinking of our Cheonan warship, the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and the recent detonations of land mines at the border, which critically injured two soldiers. With inter-Korean relations heading toward rapprochement after a dramatic six-point agreement at a high-level meeting between the two Koreas, the ruling party must demonstrate new leadership in dealing with the regime in Pyongyang led by its 30-something leader Kim Jong-un in order to open a new path toward a peaceful reunification based on democracy. Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung took a desirable direction by vowing to reinforce security while facilitating dialogue.
Even though the party enjoyed high economic growth rates in the past, the Park government’s scorecard looks shabby as evidenced by 2.9 percent growth in her first year and 3.3 percent last year. This year, the figure will likely dip to less than 3 percent.
Low growth has become a constant. As China wraps up its era of high growth, the future is full of challenges for our economy. If we want to create more jobs for our young generation and offer welfare to the old, we have no other choice but to enhance our economic fundamentals. Only determination will help the ruling party hold onto power.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 27, page 34