An integrated approach
Ending our national political vices requires the ending of our personal political vices.
This is just my imagination.
On May 15, six days after Korea’s presidential election, President Moon Jae-in and the Blue House are full of energy. It is the day the National Assembly votes on the confirmation of the prime minister. Little trouble is foreseen. Last week’s confirmation hearing was a mere formality. The People’s Party, the Bareun Party and even the Liberty Korea Party could not oppose. As the hearing went smoothly, some even blessed the nominee. The media described the hearing as a “rite of passage.” The Prime Minister was elected practically by a popular vote.
In retrospect, nominating Kim Chong-in as prime minister was a masterful move. A week before the May 9 election, Moon Jae-in announced the gambit. “If elected president, Kim Chong-in will be my prime minister,” he said. Moon also promised that the prime minister would serve through his presidency and be guaranteed the authority defined by the Constitution. Moon said he wanted the voters to pass judgement on that idea. In other words, the prime minister was a kind of running mate. It was a similar move to Donald Trump’s choice of Mike Pence — a mainstream conservative — to supplement his ideological vulnerability.
It was a clever move to put a roadblock in front of the People’s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo. In mid-April, Moon stopped using the slogan “ending our longstanding political vices” and advocated grand integration and coalition. But moderate and conservative voters didn’t budge. Moon adopted a military beret and promoted national security, but his reputation as a “sentimental pro-North Korea politician” was hard to erase. Ahn Cheol-soo was also talking about security and integration. Moon needed to differentiate himself from Ahn.
What is integration? Coalition? They’re all about people. To prove that he is promoting integration in our nation, Moon needed to employ the right people. Ending our national political vices requires the ending of our personal political vices. The key is fair appointments. Kim Chong-in is an icon of economic democratization and a symbol of security and conservatism. He left Moon’s Democratic Party because he did not like Moon. When Moon persuaded Kim to return, the presidential race was over.
From then on, things went as planned. Kim Chong-in appointed Yoo Seong-min — the Bareun Party’s presidential candidate and leader of the new conservatives — as deputy prime minister for the economy. Yoo’s economic philosophy was not much different from that of the Democratic Party.
Moon began to restore our diplomacy with the four major powers. He asked Ahn Cheol-soo to serve as envoy to China and former U.S. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to be envoy to the United States. Moon minimized the government reshuffle. Ministerial appointments are going smoothly and the cabinet will be complete by the end of the month.
Many concerns ahead of the election have dissipated. “No matter who becomes president, the ministers of the Park Geun-hye administration will remain for at least two to three months,” people worried. “The opposition parties would interfere with ministerial appointments. Administrative chaos is expected. The prime minister appointment may not be completed within the year. Security instability will prompte far-right protesters to rally in Gwanghwamun Square.” But Prime Minister Kim calmed all. A new light is shining upon Korea, and Moon is smiling.
Again, this is just my imagination. The reality is different. When Moon accepted his party’s nomination in April, he promised he would announce a shadow cabinet. The atmosphere within the liberal camp suggests the promise may not be kept. An insider said it was too early to announce prime minister and ministerial appointments, as many people are being considered. Moon may not actually be considering a prime minister as a running mate.
But politics is a creative art. I will vote for a candidate who embraces others not with words but with actions.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 20, Page 34
*The author is a columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.