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(News Focus) Park seeks to get her message through to public with new openness
By Chang Jae-soon
SEOUL, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) -- President-elect Park Geun-hye has become markedly more open and public about what she says in recent days, spurring speculation as to whether she is giving up her trademark "low-key" takeover of the administration and why.

   Over the weekend, Park's transition team released vast amounts of verbatim remarks she made in policy meetings with members of the committee's economic subcommittees on Friday and Sunday -- more than a dozen A4-size pages of remarks totaling about 26,000 characters.

  


The release of the remarks was highly unusual considering that Park has abhorred releasing unrefined statements and comments not only by her, but also by transition committee officials over concern that comments about half-baked policies could be misleading and confusing to the public.

   Park has also cautioned transition officials against indulging in high-handedness, repeatedly emphasizing from the beginning that they should work in a quiet, humble, and low-key fashion without acting like they are overbearing "occupation forces."

   One of the main points she made in the lengthy comments was to underscore how much she is committed to carrying out her campaign promises while infusing a sense of urgency into the transition team's process to flesh them out into specific policies.

   "I wouldn't have put forward campaign pledges if it is OK not to carry them out," Park said in the meeting Friday with members of the first economic subcommittee handling the issue of raising funds for campaign projects. The remarks were made public on Saturday.

   "If I make promises, you should take responsibility for them," she said.

   She also talked about a number of specific policies, such as those on household debts, small- and medium-sized firms and a new pension for senior citizens, providing guidelines such as one that some policies should be implemented as soon as the new government is launched next month.

   "We have to hurry up as we are running out of time," she said.

   Transition team officials said the new openness is an expression of Park's commitment to what she has promised amid concern that too much restrictions on what can be released have resulted in the failure of properly delivering her messages to the public.

   That could also be blamed for her lower approval ratings than her predecessors during transition periods. Analysts say a "quiet" transition of power has led to the lack of hopeful messages to the people.

   In recent weeks, Park has been dogged by questions about whether she will be able to implement all of her expensive welfare and other projects promised during her election campaign due mainly to the enormous amount of money necessary for them without raising taxes.

   Experts have also warned much more money would be necessary than Park's campaign team had originally estimated, leading even some members of Park's ruling Saenuri Party to call for scaling back, delaying or scrapping some of the campaign projects.

   "I am aware that there has been a lot of talk ... about whether they are realistic," Park said in the Friday meeting. "If we change the paradigm for running state affairs, change our thoughts according to the trends of the times and what the people want and carry out new policies with firm intentions, I believe we can get all the jobs we intend to do done."

   It was the first time Park has publicly commented on the issue.

   Park's emphasis on speedy policy implementation appears to reflect a sense of urgency that major policies should be pushed for in the early years of her presidency before policy momentum of the new government starts waning under the current single, five-year term.

   The single-term presidency has long been blamed for making a president a lame duck early.

   Some say the hefty release of Park's remarks is aimed at tightening the discipline in the officialdom with a message that they have to work harder if they want to meet her expectations.

   She warned government officials Friday against "ministerial selfishness," a long-denounced problem in the country's bureaucracy that refers to ministries competing with each other for their own interests at the expense of policy efficiency.

   "Many talk about ministerial selfishness. We can't get anything done properly in such a way," she said. "What I mean by saying that we have to put the people at the center is that all ministries should work together and combine strengths together to better serve the people."

   On Sunday, she also stressed the importance of removing "partitions" that hamper cooperation between related government ministries and agencies so as to implement policies in more coordinated and efficient ways.

   jschang@yna.co.kr
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