[EDITORIALS]A very dumb thing to doCommerce, Industry and Energy Minister Shin Kook-hwan reportedly participated in a meeting of political heavyweights and then tried to use force against journalists who covered his activities. Although we learned that Mr. Shin has expressed regret over this incident, he has brought scrutiny of his behavior and qualifications as a cabinet member as well as criticism over the neutrality of the cabinet.
Mr. Shin's participation in a meeting Monday evening, where Kim Jong-pil, president of the United Liberal Democrats, and former Prime Minister Lee Han-dong met, was likely to arouse speculation and misunderstanding. The meeting of a former prime minister and a party president is hardly the same as ordinary people meeting over dinner. Both of them are aiming at playing a role and accomplishing their goals in the upcoming presidential election. Notwithstanding the claim that it was "a private meeting," it was activity that was political enough to attract people's attention.
The problem is even more serious since Mr. Shin is a member of a cabinet that ostensibly espouses political neutrality. President Kim Dae-jung, reshuffling his cabinet last Thursday, emphasized that "the government should remain neutral according to the law and principle." However strong the president's will to be neutral, if a cabinet minister comes and goes where politicians meet, the neutrality of the government will be questioned. Mr. Shin was appointed on a ULD quota and his political neutrality has been under suspicion. He should fully understand the controversy over the qualifications of the prime minister designate Chang Sang, and the constitutionality of appointing an acting prime minister. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to avoid being criticized as careless for attending such a meeting.
Mr. Shin's behavior, taking a reporter by the throat and using violent language, makes us question his qualifications as a public official. If he stayed in the washroom after the meeting to avoid being caught by a television camera, he acted in a ridiculous manner. It also proves that he knew it was not a meeting he should have attended. Everyone's privacy should be respected. That no one can understand what Mr. Shin did Monday evening is regrettable.