President Park Geun-hye urged political parties to support her reform efforts and invest more in improving people’s livelihoods in her first meeting with the country’s key officials this year.
She also expressed hope that the political circles would regain the public’s trust by eradicating corruption and correcting “abnormalities.”
“Our future and that of our descendants depend on the ongoing economic reform and national innovation plans,” Park said on Monday, in her New Year’s meeting with key officials including the prime minister and members of the ruling Saenuri Party. The leadership of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea did not attend citing the ongoing parliamentary strife over key bills and the controversy over the government’s Dec. 28 agreement with Japan on sex slavery.
“Unless we achieve change and reform, we will inevitably return to the past and face national difficulties.”
South Korea made remarkable progress in reforming the public sector last year by revising the civil servants’ pension system and also in the financial and education sectors, she said.
The bilateral free trade agreement with China has helped expand the nation’s economic territory. The diplomatic relations with North Korea and Japan, too, have made progresses, she said.
Despite such feats, however, there remain difficulties such as the economic slowdown of China and other emerging economies.
The president cited youth unemployment, weakening of corporate competitiveness and declining population as internal challenges and the Korean Peninsula’s diplomatic situation as an external risk.
“When I think of our future 10 years from now, I feel obliged to achieve the three-year economic development plan and the key reform plans.”
It is also crucial that the political circles should take the lead in the nation’s reform blueprint and give their efforts to improve people’s lives, she added.
The remarks were made as the National Assembly struggles to pass a set of bills, which Park claimed could help reform the labor market and revitalize the economy.
Parties are currently making last-minute negotiations on the bills so as to make meet the Jan. 8 deadline ― last day of the provisional parliamentary session.
The presidential office and the ruling party, having failed to reach an agreement with the opposition bloc, had pushed the parliamentary Speaker Rep. Chung Ui-hwa to put the bills to vote on his own authority.
“Our society is riddled with division and conflicts,” said Chung in his valedictory speech to the president.
“The only thing we can do to solve this is to harmonize and unite with one another, the ruling with the opposition parties, labor with management, and the North (Korea) with the South.”
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)