S. Korea president urges end to political deadlock

SEOUL, March 7, 2013 (AFP) - South Korea's new president, Park Geun-Hye, urged opposition politicians Thursday to behave responsibly and resolve a parliamentary deadlock that has paralysed her incoming administration.

Ten days after she was sworn in as the country's first woman president, Park is without a fully functioning cabinet at a time of escalating nuclear tensions with North Korea.

"The new government was launched amid difficult circumstances, but regretfully it hasn't even been able to start working properly," Park acknowledged in an address to church leaders.

"I would be grateful if our politicians could trust the president and give me a chance to serve the nation," she said.

The focus of the current impasse is a parliamentary bill to adopt Park's proposals for a governmental reorganisation that would create new ministries and offices and reallocate responsibilities.

The opposition has refused to sanction part of the bill that would transfer broadcast policy-setting rights from an independent state watchdog to a newly created science and technology "super-ministry".

The resulting deadlock has delayed confirmation hearings for some of Park's key cabinet nominees -- one of whom has already withdrawn out of frustration.

It has been a damaging false start to Park's five-year term, as the country faces economic challenges at home and the problem of dealing with North Korea following Pyongyang's nuclear test last month.

"Our country is faced with an internal and external environment that is more difficult than ever," Park told the church leaders.

"I think our political leaders should all once again reflect on their proper duties," she added.

The parliamentary leader of the main opposition Democratic United Party, Park Ki-Choon, responded by chiding Park for highlighting national security concerns in an attempt to push her bill through the house.

"We suspect Park is using security for political purposes," he said.