The President of South Korea Park Geun-hye made a major political concession this Tuesday. She asked the political parties from the opposition to recommend the new prime minister. The South Korean president is involved in a scandal that has seen ample protests in the country. Park Geun-hye has tried to defuse the tension by publicly apologizing. However, her government is still suffering the consequences of the influence-peddling scandal. The tension surrounding the scandal has affected the political standing of the South Korean president so much that she has lost political ground in the battle to appoint the next prime minister.
Park Geun-hye Takes a Step Back
Park Geun-hye made the proposal for rival political parties to nominate the prime minister in a meeting with the speaker of the National Assembly, Chung Sye-kyun. Initially, the South Korean president had made her own recommendation for the office of prime minister. Six days ago, she had nominated Kim Byung-joon for the position. But the opposition parties rejected the nomination.
The opposition parties together hold the majority in the South Korean Parliament. They did not accept the nomination of Kim Byung-joon. Instead, they asked that Parliament recommends the prime minister. Also, they asked that the South Korean president give up some of her presidential power in terms of policy-making. The opposition parties particularly want to see Park Geun-hye have less power when it comes to economic as well as other domestic issues.
In the meantime, at the head of the South Korean government is still Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn. By making the proposal for opposition parties to make a nomination, Park Geun-hye is effectively withdrawing her nomination for Kim Byung-joon.
The Popularity of the South Korean President at a Low
The political concession that Park Geun-hye had to make was a powerful political blow to her standing in South Korea. This suggests that the South Korean president has less and less political authority. She has tried to win back public trust. Park Geun-hye has apologized for her connection to Choi Soon-sil. She has also reshuffled her cabinet as well as her presidential staff.
Despite these efforts, polls show that Park Geun-hye is currently the least popular president in the history of democratic South Korea. Since the late 1980s, when South Korea made the move to a democracy, there has not been a president involved in such a complicated scandal. The approval rating of the South Korean president is now at 5 percent. During the last few weekends, protesters went out into the street to demand that she steps down. Tens of thousands protested Park Geun-hye’s friendship with Choi Soon-sil and asked for her resignation.
Last week, South Korean prosecutors arrested Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of Park Geun-hye. According to the charges against her, Choi Soon-sil used the influence she had with the president to extort money out of big businesses. Prosecutors say that she obtained $69 million in donations through two nonprofit foundations under her control. Prosecutors also placed under arrest two people that were presidential aides to Park Geun-hye. They are accused of helping Choi Soon-sil with her plans and providing her with government documents that were confidential.
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