President Park under seige: The Korea Herald

South Korean President Park Geun Hye tries out a mobile coupon transaction at a visit to a tech startup in the Creative Economy Valley in Pangyo, on July 21, 2016.
South Korean President Park Geun Hye tries out a mobile coupon transaction at a visit to a tech startup in the Creative Economy Valley in Pangyo, on July 21, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

In its editorial on July 22, the newspaper questions if South Korea's ruling party will remain under the control of the President and her associates.

It is obvious that President Park Geun Hye is under siege. She faces hostility on many fronts - the media, opposition parties and even ruling party members as well as residents from a region that had previously been loyal to her.

First, the controversy over one of her most trusted Blue House aides is threatening to erode public trust in the presidential office and the civil service as a whole.

It is ironic that a conservative newspaper - which usually supports Park - started the increasingly harsh media scrutiny on Woo Byung Woo, the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, by raising suspicions about a real estate deal between his wife's family and Nexon Co.

The report raised the possibility that senior prosecutor Jin Kyung Joon, who was put under custody for receiving Nexon shares, could have been linked to the deal. Jin and the Nexon founder are college buddies and Woo had worked with Jin at the prosecution.

Woo flatly denied the allegation and sued the newspaper, but the report prompted a chain of follow-up reports. One of them accused him of having worked as a legal counsel - without filing pertinent papers - for Jung Woon Ho, the former CEO of the cosmetics firm Nature Republic who attempted to buy lighter punishment for his illegal gambling by paying off a former senior judge and a former prosecutor.

The media onslaught has reached Woo's family. A third newspaper reported that his son who serves as a policeman in lieu of mandatory military service has been transferred to a new post in an apparent favour given by senior police officers.

Regardless of their accuracy, these allegations against the president's point man for corruption and discipline in the civil service undermine the integrity of the Park government and provide her critics with ammunition.

The fierce protest against the planned deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in Seongju is another battlefield in which Park has been put on the defensive.

Not only residents in the town in North Gyeongsang Province - where voters had previously showed blind faith in Park - but also some ruling party members, including former Cabinet members and Blue House aides, are up in arms against the US advanced missile shield system.

Then comes the ruling Saenuri Party's factional strife, which took another ugly turn this week.

A TV network released telephone conversations between Park's close associates and a former lawmaker, which provided proof that members of the president's inner circle interfered with candidate nominations for the April 13 parliamentary election to expand the clout of the mainstream faction loyal to the president.

Happening three weeks before the party's national convention to elect new leadership, this episode has dealt a blow to the pro-Park faction, with its de facto chief Suh Chung Won withdrawing his plan to run for party leader.

It means that the ruling party, which has already lost control of the National Assembly to opposition parties, will no longer be under the control of the president and her associates.

That will further precipitate the weakening of the Park presidency, a process that began with the Saenuri's stunning defeat during April's election due mainly to Park and her associates' interference in nominations.

All in all, Park's situation shows that she is already a lame duck and how fast this will worsen will depend on how she responds to current challenges.

* The Korea Herald is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 21 newspapers.