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Posted : 2016-03-08 17:35
Updated : 2016-03-08 22:13

Park reverses view on economy

By Kang Seung-woo

Park Geun-hye
President Park Geun-hye is changing her views about the challenges facing the country's economy.

A number of months ago, she warned of a possible impending economic crisis while calling on opposition parties to endorse bills on economic and labor issues. Now she is talking about optimistic economic indicators, although the bills remain pending at the National Assembly.

Political analysts said Tuesday that Park's baffling turnaround is politically motivated by the main opposition party's strategy to blame the government's poor policies for the current economic difficulties ahead of the April 13 general election.

Park told her senior secretaries Monday that the nation's economy is showing a reasonable performance, better than she had expected and fretted over, stressing that an excessive sense of uncertainty over the economy should not be an issue.

"The nation's export decline is slowing down and youth employment and consumption are maintaining a steady growth," Park said, adding that she expects the economy to continue improving when the government's financial policies are adjusted.

But Park's comments regarding the national economy are in sharp contrast to her previous repeated claims that the nation would tumble into another economic crisis, when urging the National Assembly to pass economy-related bills since last year.

Her latest appeal in this vein came a week ago in a speech marking the 97th anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement, in which she said economic conditions at home and abroad are further deteriorating in the wake of North Korea's increasing threats. She also gave a similar address to the parliament on Feb. 16.

"Not that long ago, President Park said the economy was in trouble, but a few days later, she said now it is good. For the people, it does not make sense and is only confusing," said Choi Jin-man, a political science professor at Duksung Women's University.

Her positive outlook regarding the economy came after the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea (MPK) began calling on voters to judge the government and the ruling Saenuri Party for failed economic policies.

"The nation's economy shows signs that it is about to take similar steps to that of the Japanese economy which suffered a harsh and long-term economic recession from 1993 for more than 20 years," said Kim Jong-in, the MPK interim leader, Monday.

"Unless the government fully recognizes the economic conditions and adopts a new economic policy, we may suffer the Lost Decades like Japan."

"President Park's remarks were aimed at preventing the MPK's attack from appealing to the public," said Choi Chang-ryol, a politics professor at Yongin University.

Cho also said Park's vague assertion of positive economic trends may not work.

"Without any grounds to back this up, they will not help the people agree with her," he said.

Also on Monday, the state-run Korea Development Institute (KDI) said in its monthly evaluation of the country's economic conditions that the Korean economy has entered a period of slowdown due largely to faltering exports and weak domestic consumption coupled with waning global demand ― entirely different from Park's claims.

Presidential spokesman Jung Youn-kuk said the President's comments were about mentioning something positive under unfavorable conditions and preventing an excessive sense of anxiety from spreading.

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