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From trailblazer to historically-unpopular leader


12-09-2016 12:29 BJT

Park Geun-hye was a trailblazer but now she ends her presidency as the most unpopular leader in the country's history. We take a look at the past four years of Park Geun-hye's career.

The president of South Korea is political blue blood.

As the daughter of former president Park Chung-hee, Park Geun-hye is no stranger to the presidential Blue House.

In 2012, Park narrowly defeated Moon Jae-in to became South Korea's first female leader. It was a notable achievement, given the country's high level of gender inequality. Her association with her father helped cement votes from the male and elderly population.

In her inauguration speech, Park vowed to improve the economy by boosting creativity and entrepreneurship. But she has since struggled to push through reforms. And the recent crisis with several chaebols, or conglomerates, has cast a shadow over the country’s economy.

She also promised to work on "national reconciliation" with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and establish a foundation for peaceful unification. But in recent years, South Korea has witnessed frequent threats from the DPRK and escalating border tensions.

Also, Park still faces strong opposition from China after pushing to deploy the THAAD anti-missile system in the country, although Seoul and Beijing maintain relatively stable relations.

Seoul’s deal with Tokyo last year to settle the issue of "comfort women" in World War Two, was seen as an “epoch-making" agreement, even though many were dissatisfied. But criticism for Park has only grown stronger, after she defended a recently-signed military intelligence agreement with Tokyo.

The Park administration was also blamed for systemic lapses that led to the 2014 Sewol ferry tragedy.

But none of the past criticism can compare to the depth of public animosity she faces in this corruption and influence-peddling scandal. Within one month, her once-bulletproof approval ratings fell to a record low. But even as she is no longer president, this might not be the end of the story.

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