Weak­ened South Korean pres­i­dent takes an­other hit

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-Hye yes­ter­day agreed to dump her nom­i­nee for prime min­is­ter and cede con­trol of some state af­fairs in a ma­jor climb­down forced by a cor­rup­tion scan­dal bat­ter­ing her ad­min­is­tra­tion. The same scan­dal saw pros­e­cu­tors carry out a morn­ing swoop on the of­fices of South Korea’s largest con­glom­er­ate Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics, look­ing for in­crim­i­nat­ing doc­u­ments.

In a sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal con­ces­sion, Park told the speaker of the Na­tional Assem­bly she would accept a prime min­is­ter cho­sen by the op­po­si­tion-con­trolled leg­is­la­ture “and let him con­trol the cab­i­net”. The premier­ship is nor­mally a largely sym­bolic post in South Korea, where power is firmly con­cen­trated on the ex­ec­u­tive. It was a dou­ble sur­ren­der by Park-ef­fec­tively jet­ti­son­ing her own choice for prime min­is­ter and re­lin­quish­ing some of her ex­ten­sive pow­ers to who­ever par­lia­ment puts for­ward. Her climb­down un­der­lined just how weak­ened she has been by the scan­dal in­volv­ing a close per­sonal friend, Choi Soon-Sil, who has been ar­rested on charges of fraud and abuse of power. The charges re­late to al­le­ga­tions that Choi lever­aged her per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with Park to co­erce do­na­tions from large com­pa­nies like Sam­sung to non-profit foun­da­tions which she set up and used for per­sonal gain. She is also ac­cused of in­ter­fer­ing in gov­ern­ment af­fairs, in­clud­ing the nom­i­na­tion of se­nior of­fi­cials.

Lurid re­ports of the un­healthy in­flu­ence Choi wielded over Park have sent the pres­i­dent’s ap­proval rat­ings plung­ing to record lows and trig­gered mass street protests call­ing on her to re­sign. In a bid to re­store pub­lic trust, Park reshuf­fled her ad­vis­ers and se­nior cab­i­net mem­bers, and nom­i­nated a lib­eral can­di­date for prime min­is­ter from out­side her con­ser­va­tive Saenuri Party. But op­po­si­tion par­ties had vowed to block her nom­i­nee on the grounds they were not prop­erly con­sulted.

‘Cri­sis of state’

Dur­ing their meet­ing, par­lia­ment speaker Chung Sye-Kyun told Park her big­gest pri­or­ity should be to al­le­vi­ate wide­spread pub­lic con­cern and anx­i­ety. “The pres­i­dent’s cri­sis is the cri­sis of state af­fairs and the cri­sis of the na­tion,” Chung said, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial tran­script. “If the Na­tional Assem­bly rec­om­mends a nom­i­nee, you must ap­point him and grant him au­thor­ity and en­sure there will be no dis­putes in the fu­ture about his au­thor­ity,” he added. Park has just over a year of her sin­gle five-year term left to serve, and there are con­cerns the scan­dal will paral­yse gov­ern­ment at a time of slow­ing eco­nomic growth, ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment and el­e­vated mil­i­tary ten­sions with North Korea. Op­po­si­tion par­ties have sug­gested Park should take a back seat in state af­fairs for the re­main­der of her term and leave the daily run­ning of the coun­try to a bi­par­ti­san cab­i­net. A spokesman for the main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Party said Park’s con­ces­sion yes­ter­day was too “am­bigu­ous” and urged her to con­firm that the new prime min­is­ter would be al­lowed to func­tion with­out in­ter­fer­ence. Lee Nae-Young, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at Korea Univer­sity, said con­ced­ing to par­lia­ment was a “last-ditch ef­fort” to pre­vent the cri­sis spi­ral­ing out of con­trol. “It’s still not ex­actly clear to what ex­tent she will end up de­volv­ing some of her pow­ers, and that is go­ing to take some con­sul­ta­tions with the po­lit­i­cal par­ties,” Lee said.

“The real prob­lem is that a lot of peo­ple feel she has lost her moral au­thor­ity to rule as pres­i­dent.” The widen­ing scope of a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Choi Soon-Sil saw pros­e­cu­tors raid the of­fices of Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics in Seoul ear­lier yes­ter­day. Me­dia re­ports have sug­gested the com­pany may have fun­neled as much as 2.8 mil­lion eu­ros ($3.1 mil­lion) to a com­pany Choi set up in Ger­many to bankroll her daugh­ter’s eques­trian train­ing. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.