[EDITORIALS]Right time, wrong place

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[EDITORIALS]Right time, wrong place

It was inappropriate for several ministers at Tuesday's cabinet meeting to openly disagree with campaign pledges made by certain presidential candidates. The ministers might have had their reasons, but their actions came through as supporting or opposing a candidate, and such talk infringes on a public servant's obligation to remain neutral.

At the meeting, the education minister criticized such political pledges as doing away with his ministry and moving state and public universities to provincial areas, saying, "It would destroy the basis of a national education policy." The minister might have said that to express the disgruntlement of universities and ministry officials, since they seem understandably concerned that educational policies and the ministry itself may undergo drastic changes when the new administration takes over.

But whether it was right to bring up these issues during a cabinet meeting is another matter. It is ultimately up to the voters to determine whether a candidate's campaign pledges are relevant or feasible. Posing such questions prior to the voters going to the polls can fan controversy of unfair intervention by public officials in a presidential campaign. Among the pledges, some will become the next government's agenda, which makes it more inappropriate for bureaucrats to discuss them at this time.

It is also hard to understand the chief of the Korea Information Service, a government spokesman, and his briefing on the discussions at the cabinet meeting. The service is another government agency that presidential candidates are hoping to axe. "There was not a cabinet member who opposed each government agency standing up for itself," the chief said. What does that mean?

All ministries and their officials have reponsibilities to assure the public of continuity and stability in government. Ministry officials would do well in serving the public if they focused on managing the election fairly rather than debating candidates' campaign promises.
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