Ahn’s withdrawal revives President Park’s personnel problems

May 28, 2014
President Park Geun-hye has a lot to think about. (Yonhap)

President Park Geun-hye has a lot to think about. (Yonhap)

By Kang Seung-woo

The withdrawal of Prime Minister-nominee Ahn Dae-hee is cornering President Park Geun-hye who is already staggering in the aftermath of the Sewol tragedy.

Ahn, 59, a former Supreme Court justice tapped to be Park’s new prime minister a week ago, withdrew his nomination amid growing criticism that he benefited from his status on the top court. He made 1.6 billion won ($1.5 million) between July and December last year as a lawyer.

“Ahn’s withdrawal is reviving the trauma of President Park’s personnel problems. The personnel issue has always hit hard her approval rating,” said Bae Jong-chan, chief director at Research and Research, a pollster specialized in political surveys. .

“When former presidential spokesman Yoon Chang-joong was fired over a sex scandal, her approval rating dropped by some 10 percent. And the resignation of Kim Yong-joon negatively affected the president’s popularity, as well. ” Kim, a former Constitutional Court chief justice, was the first prime minister-nominee of the Park administration, launched in February last year.

He added that with a few days to go before the local elections, the resignation is likely to deliver a brutal blow to Park and the ruling Saenuri Party.

“Given that the upcoming elections will choose mayors and governors who will be with the president until the end of her term, the elections are really important to her,” he said.

“In addition, she picked Ahn as part of efforts to regain damaged public trust in the government due to the sinking of the Sewol, but he withdrew his nomination, which was shocking to the President.”

Lee Kang-yun, a journalist-turned-commentator, said, “The Ahn nomination could have halted the declining approval ratings for Park and the ruling Saenuri Party to some extent, but now the brake has disappeared.”

Shin Yul, a professor in the department of political science at Myongji University, said that the government does not seem to be its old self.

“The government would have pushed ahead with the pick in the past, but after watching Ahn resign, President Park does not appear as strong as in the early stage of her administration,” he said.

With Ahn out, Cheong Wa Dae’s personnel system is once again in hot water for its failure to filter out the nominee’s possible faults ahead of a confirmation hearing and presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon, the head of Cheong Wa Dae’s personnel committee, could be at the center of criticism.

“Public sentiment toward presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon is worsening and the Ahn withdrawal is likely to add more pressure for him to step down; although this is not likely,” said Lee.