S. Korean president apologises over political deadlock

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea's new president Park Geun Hye publicly apologised on Monday for a political deadlock blocking the formation of her government at a time of heightened nuclear tension with North Korea.

Since being sworn in a week ago, Ms Park has had to work without a functioning Cabinet because of opposition to her government restructuring plans that have affected parliamentary confirmation of her ministerial nominees.

"I'm very sorry for causing anxiety to the people," Ms Park said in a live television address, citing "serious" and "unprecedented" delays caused to the running of state affairs.

It has been a damaging start to Ms Park's five-year term, which faces many challenges including how to deal with North Korea following Pyongyang's nuclear test on Dec 12.

The focus of the parliamentary deadlock is Ms Park's bill to reorganise the government structure, creating new ministries and offices, and reallocating responsibilities.

One of the bill's flagship proposals was to set up a Future Creation and Science Ministry to spearhead Ms Park's vision of a new "creative economy" that moves beyond the country's traditional manufacturing base.

But opposition parties have rejected plans for the new ministry to take over broadcast policy-setting rights, currently handled by an independent state watchdog.

Ms Park's address on Monday came shortly after her nominee to head the new science ministry, Mr Kim Jeong Hoon, stepped down in apparent frustration at the parliamentary impasse.

Dismissing the opposition concerns, Ms Park insisted that her proposals were aimed at boosting South Korea's competitiveness and she urged parliament to pass the bill and allow her administration to get to work.