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South Korean president stumbles in first month on job

President Park Geun-hye has faced fierce opposition to her policies and key appointments in South Korea.Kim Jae-hwan/Associated Press

SEOUL — President Park Geun-hye’s honeymoon was over before it even began.

A month on the job, Park has stumbled repeatedly in the face of opposition to policy proposals and her choices for top government posts.

Half a dozen Cabinet appointees have quit under fire. The latest is Han Man-soo, who withdrew his nomination for antitrust chief amid allegations he stashed millions of dollars overseas to avoid taxes. Other allegations that have brought down Park appointees include real estate speculation, a sex-for-influence scandal, bribery, and links to an arms broker.

‘‘A couple of flops would’ve been acceptable, but having a total of six failures in the first few months means that the problem lies with her style,’’ said Lee Cheol-hee, head of the Dumon Political Strategy Institute, a think tank in Seoul. ‘‘She seems to think she can just hand down a list of people she prefers, without thinking hard about whether those people’s credentials and ethical records fit the jobs they will be handling.’’

Critics also complain that she is still short on specifics about how to deal with pressing issues including an increasingly belligerent North Korea and serious domestic anxiety about fewer stable jobs, heavy household debt, and a wide income gap.


Park acknowledged the setbacks on Monday but said they should only make her administration more determined. ‘‘Because the launch of the new government has been delayed by one month, we should work harder to fulfill our vision,’’ she said.

The presidential Blue House did not answer calls seeking additional comment.

Her troubles have a lot to do with the fiercely divided political and social landscape. She also carries the heavy historical baggage of being the daughter of a dictator whose legacy still divides South Koreans.

She is the eldest child of late President Park Chung-hee, who led South Korea for 18 years in the 1960s and 1970s and is both denounced for human rights abuses and praised as a strong leader.