[News analysis] With unexpected interview, Pres. Park may be trying to rally die-hard supporters

Posted on : 2017-01-26 17:17 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Over the past week, Park appeared at her father’s grave, apparently appealing to conservatives’ nostalgia
Conservative protesters wave South Korean flags and chant slogans calling for the overturning of President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment
Conservative protesters wave South Korean flags and chant slogans calling for the overturning of President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment

President Park Geun-hye’s surprise appearance in an online interview on the afternoon of Jan. 25 after being suspended from her duties with a National Assembly impeachment vote appeared to be part of a public relations campaign to slow the clock on her impeachment trial and win over the public ahead of the long Lunar New Year holiday.

The move may have been intended to rally die-hard supporters opposed to her impeachment and influence the Constitutional Court’s trial, which is expected to produce a ruling before Mar. 13.

Following a surprise talk with reporters on Jan. 1, Park considered holding an additional talk or press conference ahead of Lunar New Year (Jan. 28). A decision to put that off until after her Constitutional Court appearance and the Special Prosecutor’s investigation was reportedly made after suggestions that it would violate the law for a suspended President to engage in “press activity,” along with charges that she is focusing on an external opinion campaign without having yet appeared before the court.

 during a rally at Independence Gate in Seoul
during a rally at Independence Gate in Seoul

But as the chances of the impeachment being approved appeared greater and a schedule took shape, Park appears to have opted instead for the strategy of appearing on a conservative commentator’s online program to personally demonstrate her innocence.

Blue House spirits have also been reportedly buoyed by growing attendance at recent so-called “Taegeukgi rallies” (named after the South Korean flag) by conservatives opposing the impeachment. Park’s visit to the grave of her father Park Chung-hee - her first appearance in public since her Dec. 23 suspension - was also seen as a move to rally opposition to her impeachment by appealing to nostalgia for the former President.

“If [the President] doesn’t do anything, she’ll just be forgotten. It’s a situation now where she has to do everything she can,” said an adviser of Park’s.

Korea Economic Daily chief editor Jeong Kyu-jae, who conducted the interview with Park on Jan. 25, is a familiar figure in broadcast media for his blistering denunciations of free social services. In 2013, he was appointed by Park’s administration as a National Economic Advisory Council member. He has advocated for a “free market economy” rooted in neoliberalism and maintained a highly critical stance on dialogue-based resolution of North Korea issues.

By Choi Hye-jung, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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