Park promises to work with the new Assembly

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Park promises to work with the new Assembly

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President Park Geun-hye makes her opening remarks at a senior secretariat meeting in the Blue House on Monday. In the wake of the ruling party’s crushing defeat in the general election last week, Park promised to cooperate with the new legislature. [JOINT PRESS]

The ruling party’s humiliating defeat in last week’s general election was an opportunity to contemplate the people’s will, President Park Geun-hye said Monday, promising to cooperate with the new legislature.

“The election outcome served as an opportunity to reflect upon the people’s will,” Park said in her opening remarks at a senior secretariat meeting in the Blue House.

“From now on, I will humbly respect the people’s will and make the people’s livelihood the top priority of state affairs. With a sense of duty, I will do my best to advance Korea’s economy and conclude the three-year plan for economic innovation.”

In the April 13 general election, the Saenuri Party, to which Park belongs, won 122 seats, while the Minjoo Party of Korea won 123 and the centrist People’s Party won 38. The Saenuri Party not only lost its majority in the National Assembly but was also reduced to being the nation’s second-largest party. In modern Korean political history, the party of the incumbent president has lost its majority before but has always been the largest party.

“I expect the 20th National Assembly will be a legislature devoted to the economy and the people’s livelihood,” Park said. “The government will closely cooperate with the new National Assembly.”

This was Park’s first reaction to her party’s unprecedented defeat. The day after the election, the Blue House issued a two-sentence statement, inviting furious public responses.

Although her party will be largely outnumbered, Park insisted on pushing forward her initiatives during the remaining months of her term, which ends in February 2018.

“Korea is facing various hardships at home and abroad, including the global economic recession and the North’s threats,” she said. “Because of the crisis, it is important to continue reform efforts to change the constitution of our economy for the country’s future. To this end, the government, the National Assembly and the people must put their power and wisdom together to overcome the crisis.”

Her reaction invited more controversies on Monday. The Saenuri Party was split, with Park loyalists defending her while others deplored her lack of an apology.

While the Saenuri Party said in a statement that Park’s reaction was proper and that the government should cooperate with the legislature for the sake of the economy, Park’s adversaries reacted with furor.

“She’s just too much,” a senior lawmaker, who asked not to be named, told the Yonhap News Agency. “At the very least, she should not completely ruin the party. After losing the 2010 local election, President Lee Myung-bak at least apologized. She should have offered an apology and promised to work harder. Does she think she holds papal infallibility?”

“Park’s perceptions before and after the election remain unchanged,” the Minjoo Party said in a statement. “Despite the people’s stern and strict criticism, Park appeared to have no intention of changing her thoughts.”

The Minjoo Party said the people are demanding Park cease her unilateral, high-handed way of running the country and change the basis of state affairs. “She must humbly accept the people’s sentiment and reflect it in state affairs. A realistic and forward-looking measure is particularly needed in economic policies.”

The Minjoo Party also said she must stop blaming the legislature for her administration’s poor performance.

People’s Party spokesman Kim Jung-hyun said Park has a poor understanding of the situation. “We wonder if she can overcome the economic crisis with such a perception,” he said. “Unless the people can feel some drastic change in the Blue House, it will be hard for her to seek the National Assembly’s cooperation.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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