By: Kang Seung-woo

President Park Geun-hye spoke out against a parliamentary reform bill for civil servants, Monday, saying that it fell short of the public’s expectations.

“First of all, the changes should earn the approval of the people,” Park said, but didn’t elaborate on how she intended to deal with the bipartisan bill.

Park returned to work after ending a week-long absence due to fatigue following a 12-day trip to South America.

On the back of the ruling Saenuri Party’s crushing victory in last week’s by-elections, Park urged politicians to join in a drive for political reform.

“It is meaningful that the ruling and opposition parties finalized the reform bill by the deadline of May 6,” Park said during a meeting with her senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae.

“However, I am sorry that the conditions of the agreement are distant from the causes for pushing ahead with reform.”

Park is opposed to allowing retired workers, starting in 2028, to receive 50 percent ― up from 40 percent ― of their average monthly salary earned, from the National Pension Fund (NPF).

“The change to the 20 million member-NPF itself is to put a big burden on the people and it is another issue requiring a different approach from the pension reform for civil servants,” she said.

On Saturday, Park’s office also called foul on the reform bill, blaming the National Assembly for overstepping its authority.

The Saenuri Party attempted to soothe the president.

“It is the dominant principle that any change to the NPF is subject to national consensus,” floor leader Yoo Seong-min told the party’s Supreme Council, Monday.

Ha Tae-keung, another Saenuri Party lawmaker, said in a briefing at the National Assembly, “The pension reform bill for civil servants should be processed without fail at Wednesday’s plenary session, but we need to review the plan to link the civil servant pension to the NPF.”

Meanwhile, the President criticized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s failure to face up to Japan’s aggression and war crime history in his address to U.S. Congress.

Park, who had a stomachache and a sore throat over the last week, and no official schedule, also touched on various pending issues ― among them her criticism of Abe.

The Japanese premier delivered a speech before U.S. lawmakers, Wednesday, but did not apologize for Japan’s wartime atrocities, including the sexual enslavement of Korean and other Asian women.

“Abe is under fire in the U.S. for his failure to face up to history,” Park said.

Rep. Ed Royce, a Republican from California who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Thursday that he was disappointed that Abe did not use the opportunity to adequately address outstanding historical issues that continue to plague relations throughout East Asia.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio had also urged Abe, Tuesday, to address Japan’s wartime past in the speech.

In the wake of the Abe speech, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is under siege for its poor preemptive handling, but Park said she will stick to the nation’s two-track approach toward Japan that will separate historical issues from diplomatic ones.

Park also said that the ruling party’s by-election wins mean that the people want the government to reform the political establishment by eliminating widespread corruption.

“Politicians should represent the people. Otherwise, it is like seeking personal success,” she said.

“Come what may, we should eradicate corruption and the cozy relations between politics and business.”

In addition, Park called on the government to improve a system for special pardons to ensure fairness and transparency.

Her instructions came amid growing controversy over two special pardons granted for Sung Woan-jong, carried out under the Roh Moo-hyun administration. Sung, the deceased chairman of Keangnam Enterprises, is at the center of the nation-rocking corruption scandal involving Park’s close aides.

SOURCE: THE KOREA TIMES