[EDITORIALS]We got a breath of stale air

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[EDITORIALS]We got a breath of stale air

Cabinet reshuffles by President Kim Dae-jung are often called games of chess. The public has criticized Mr. Kim for obstinacy, saying he ignored the will of the people in every cabinet shake-up. The cabinet and Blue House changes on Tuesday were no exception to that criticism. The decision to keep Prime Minister Lee Han-dong and the return of Park Ji-won, former senior presidential secretary for policy and planning, to the Blue House, are cases in point.

Although 17 of the core posts in the administration will get a new face, the reshuffle falls far short of blowing fresh air into the government. The people demanded new faces to revitalize the national governance, ruined by corruption. The people determined that Prime Minister Lee, who failed to demonstrate the will needed for the job, should no longer lead the cabinet if the government hopes to regain public support. The people demanded that personnel appointments should be based on the principles of bipartisanship and fairness. They were let down.

We wonder why this administration announced the reshuffle and why the shake-up took place.

The principle that incumbent lawmakers should return to their original parties to maintain fairness in the presidential and local elections has been turned on its head. The rule was applied only to the Millennium Democratic Party lawmakers; Prime Minister Lee and Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo have stayed put. Commerce Minister Shin Kook-hwan was appointed on behalf of the United Liberal Democrats when he was first introduced in the cabinet. Political watchers speculate that the move to rearrange the political arena by forming a coalition between the ruling party, the United Liberal Democrats and the Democratic People's Party took precedence, instead of forming a cabinet that supercedes politics. That assertion is convincing, and the public's expectation of a politically neutral cabinet was not met. Although the reshuffle was announced in advance, some expected appointments did not happen, hinting chaos in the way it happened.

With Park Ji-won's grand return to the center of power, the function and role of the Blue House can easily be compromised. Lim Dong-won will be in charge of foreign affairs, national security and North Korea policy; Mr. Park will govern politics and public information, and Jeon Yun-churl will take charge of economic affairs. Although the appointment that put the first woman in the position of chief Blue House spokesperson and senior presidential secretary for political affairs was extraordinary, it can be seen as an attempt to cover up Mr. Park's return.

The stability of national governance was presented as the main reason for the reshuffle, but replacing Unification Minister Hong Soon-young and Justice Minister Choi Kyung-won did not support that premise. The government said Mr. Hong was replaced to refurbish the engagement policy toward the North. However, the government should address the accusation that Mr. Hong was sacked after only four months on the job because he irritated Pyeongyang by persisting on principles of inter-Korean negotiations. The replacement of Mr. Choi also raises doubts. His successor is from the Jeolla region, hinting the intention to check and control the new prosecutor general, who hails from Daegu.

Due to the public brickbat, the administration's bid to regain power to implement its policies through the reshuffle seems to have failed. The people say the president does not understand the popular sentiment. Mr. Kim should make a personal evaluation of his personnel appointments.
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