Parties use Trump’s win to put pressure on Park

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Parties use Trump’s win to put pressure on Park

The ruling and opposition parties both tried Thursday to play the U.S. election outcome to their own advantages in the leadership crisis surrounding President Park Geun-hye.

The opposition Minjoo Party of Korea and the People’s Party, which have been seeking Park’s resignation for allowing her friend Choi Soon-sil to influence state affairs, questioned Park’s ability to cope with rapidly changing global affairs in the aftermath of Donald J. Trump’s surprising presidential victory.

“Depending on how we respond to this transition period in U.S. policies, we may be able to find an opportunity,” said Rep. Yun Ho-jung, chief policymaker of the Minjoo Party. “But we wonder if President Park can perform the role as the head of state right now in the diplomatic arena.”

He also said Park must relinquish control not only of domestic but also foreign affairs.

Rep. Woo Sang-ho, floor leader of the Minjoo Party, also said Park must learn from the U.S. presidential election. “You have to pay attention to the sentiments of the voters, not the winner,” he said. “In Korea, the aggravated wealth gap and the people’s despair over the Choi Soon-sil scandal will soon explode.”

Moon Jae-in, former chairman of the Minjoo Party and its presidential frontrunner, also urged Park to make a “patriotic decision” for the sake of the country. “She has lost confidence in running not only domestic affairs but also foreign affairs,” said Moon. “Neighboring countries’ trust in Park has hit rock bottom, and having a close dialogue with the United States is impossible. She must empty her mind, take her hands off the government and allow the ruling and opposition parties to control the crisis through a nonpartisan, neutral cabinet.”

The People’s Party also used the election to pressure Park. “It is unfortunate the country has a president who cannot even attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit,” said Rep. Park Jie-won, acting chairman of the party. “That is why the president must voluntarily step down.”

Rep. Kim Song-sik, chief policymaker, said Trump will soon create policies based on his pledges, while the failed administration of Park is incapable of handling them, adding, “She must declare that she will no longer run the government and surrender her Saenuri Party membership.”

“Park has lost her political confidence and we wonder if summit diplomacy with the United States is possible now,” said Rep. Cho Bae-sook. “For the sake of the Korea-U.S. alliance, Park must immediately resign.”

Ahn Cheol-soo, the former head of the People’s Party and its presidential frontrunner, also demanded Park’s resignation. “We have to start diplomatic negotiations with President-elect Trump as soon as possible, but he doesn’t recognize her,” Ahn said at a street rally on Thursday. “To end this chaos as soon as possible, Park’s resignation is the best resolution.”

Ahn started an online signature drive to demand Park’s resignation last week and has collected about 20,000 signatures so far. However, Trump does recognize Park; one day after his victory, he spoke with her and reassured her ties with the United States would remain strong.

Minjoo’s floor leader, Woo, said he met with Republican heavyweights during his recent visit to the United States while accompanying the National Assembly speaker, and they assured Woo that Trump’s remarks on Korea were for the campaign and that Korea should not overreact. “I believe in the sense of balance of the U.S. congressional leaders and I believe in their promise that Congress won’t approve any changes that will harm traditional Korea-U.S. relations,” Woo said, vowing to strengthen parliamentary diplomacy.

The opposition parties also urged their lawmakers to attend the massive street protest planned for Saturday to further attack Park. The leaderships, however, decided to not formally participate in the rally organized by the militant umbrella union Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, as they want to avoid criticism for being too extreme.

The ruling Saenuri Party said the opposition parties are acting irresponsibly. “They are demanding that Park surrender her control over the military and the right to declare martial law to the prime minister,” Chairman Lee Jung-hyun said, referring to Moon Jae-in’s earlier remarks. “We need an explanation from him.”

Rep. Lee Jang-woo, a member of the Supreme Council, said the Minjoo Party must act more responsibly as it is the largest opposition party and as insecurities over the economy and security have grown with Trump’s election, calling it “a crisis inside and out.”

Meanwhile, the Blue House issued a statement to condemn a Minjoo lawmaker for having used wrongful media reports to attack Park. Rep. Yun Ho-jung, chief policymaker of the Minjoo Party, said in the morning that Trump ridiculed Park during his campaign as an example of a failed female president, questioning Park’s ability to have a summit with him in the future. Yoon later recanted the remark after it was confirmed that Trump never made such a statement.

“It is regretful that Yun made such a remark publicly in this serious time,” said Presidential spokesman Jung Youn-kuk.

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

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