Thursday, June 26, 2014

South Korea: President Park Continues to See Her Popularity Plummet

According to Reuters, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, 62, rejected the resignation of Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, who tendered his resignation two months ago over the government's flawed response to the ferry disaster of the "Sewol," heightened concerns about the President's ability to rule proactively.

Park has suffered a sharp drop in public support since the April 16 ferry tragedy that killed more than 300 people, many of them high school children. The latest polls show a 20% decline in her approval ratings. 

COMMENT: If our readers will recall, at the time of the sinking of the ferry in April, I vigorously objected to the President's failure to take charge of the recovery operation, although she continued to visit her gym daily as the country struggled with a deficit of leadership.

The post of prime minister is largely ceremonial, with power focused on the presidency, yet Park's failure to install a formidable candidate has cast new doubt about her ability to rule Asia's fourth-largest economy. 

Park is in the second year of a five-year term and has a parliamentary majority that can contribute her instituting key reform policies, yet she increasingly is viewed as impotent and ineffective on the simplest of tasks.

Park's second nominee for the position of Prime Minister, former journalist Moon Chang-keuk, withdrew his name on Tuesday (June 24) amid a public furor over comments he made at a church gathering, where he said it had been God's will for Korea to suffer under Japan's colonial rule in the early 20th Century.

Such a statement is hardly acceptable given the sensitive nature on how elderly South Koreans feel about Japan's negative impact on events that transpired during the last century.

If anything, simple management challenges seem to produce a track record that to date have become unsuccessful.

Her first nominee, a former Supreme Court justice, quit last month over questions about the ethics of earning a large income soon after leaving public service. Such an issue is seemingly unacceptable.

It appears that even PM Chung Hong-won clearly wanted to leave the Park Administration, yet the President insisted on his remaining in the post.

The reality is that all governments constantly face human resource changes and must do so seamlessly without laborious effort.

If simple tasks are a challenge, how pray tell, will the Park Administration deal with extremely complicated problems that span the majority of ministries?