[EDITORIAL] A New Team Takes Over

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[EDITORIAL] A New Team Takes Over

Monday's cabinet reshuffle appears to be an attempt to revamp governance and refurbish President Kim Dae-jung's team in preparation for his remaining term. The new faces give a strong impression of being an hard-charging lineup, rather than one geared up for harmony. The president put his confidants at the fore, and the lineup also invites speculation that the president is intent on hard-line politics with an Assembly majority composed of the coalition between the president and Kim Jong-pil plus the Democratic People's Party.

The characteristic of this reshuffle is that many politicians are in the lineup. Headed by Prime Minister Lee Han-dong, more than 10 incumbent assemblymen have been appointed to ministerial and vice ministerial posts. This will be helpful to maintain a close cooperative relationship between the party and the administration, but it gives rise to concern that shaky policy may result from a lack of professionalism and that government policies may be driven by political logic.

In particular, three lawmakers from the United Liberal Democrats made the lineup along with a member of the Democratic People's Party, so the political landscape has been virtually realigned into two camps. The ruling party may have satisfied its desire to secure a majority on the floor, but the price it had to pay will be too costly. A rocky political road seems to lie ahead; the Grand National Party is claiming that these moves presage even more attempts to realign the political landscape.

With the distribution of posts among three parties, the new cabinet smacks of an illicit union among parities with clashing platforms and ideologies. It is questionable whether such a mishmash will lead to smooth execution of reform policies. Furthermore, ULD Honorary President Kim Jong-pil cast an ugly shadow as he negotiated to grab his share of the pie.

What is most conspicuous is former Culture Minister Park Jie-won's comeback as the senior presidential secretary for policy. Since he stepped down, linked to a loan scandal, he kept saying he was falsely charged, and the prosecution dropped the case, claiming that it failed to find any wrongdoing on Mr. Park's part. Ruling camp figures explain that as a close confidant of the president, Mr. Park is considered an essential figure in the second half of President Kim's term. However, others say his comeback does not accord with public sentiment. The district court, unusually, commented, "Mr. Park's actions are suspicious," a statement still vivid in our memory.

It is fortunate that the ministers in charge of North Korea, foreign affairs and national security policy have been replaced. There was concern about policy confusion as Lim Dong-won, head of the National Intelligence Service in charge of anti-communist policies, supervised rapprochement policies toward the North as well. With his transfer to the Ministry of Unification, this issue has been resolved. He is expected to push for the engagement and reconciliation policy toward the North. However, the president should keep it in mind that the appointment of a ruling party executive to head the intelligence agency invites worries that the NIS may be used politically.

Opinions differ on the economic team, but economic ministers should do their best to promote policies consistently and wrap up what is under way. It is unusual that Lee Ki-ho, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, has been kept despite his repeated gaffes.

The new cabinet has a mountain of tasks in front of it. We hope the new team will make efforts to understand what the public really wants.
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