January 23, 2015 – South Korean President Park Geun-Hye today appointed a new prime minister in an apparent bid to bolster her sagging approval ratings, hit by a scandal involving her aides.
Ms Park named Mr Lee Wan-Koo, parliamentary floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, to replace Mr Chung Hong-Won as prime minister, the presidential Blue House said in a press statement. But she retained her embattled chief of presidential staff Kim Ki-Choon, who faces a storm of criticism over the reported power struggle among presidential aides that has gripped the headlines for months, with allegations they wielded undue influence.
Ms Park’s approval rating has fallen sharply this month, plunging from 43 per cent on Jan 9 to an all-time low of 34 per cent on Thursday, posing a growing threat to the government’s drive to resuscitate the country’s sluggish economy.
The decline in her popularity accelerated after she rejected calls from critics to let go of three long-time aides accused of monopolizing access to the president and interfering with government personnel changes. Ms Park has denied the allegations, however Friday’s statement said that the official roles of the three aides will now be curtailed.
Ms Park’s support base has also been undermined by a recent public backlash against changes in tax codes that apparently resulted in more levies on the middle class. She faces mounting attacks that her government has idled away two years of its five-year term as the country is dogged by a slowing economy, growing gaps between the rich and the poor, high youth unemployment and lingering tensions with the nuclear-armed North Korea.