[EDITORIALS]Hopes for the prime ministerLee Hai-chan, nominated to be the country’s prime minister, has won the backing of the National Assembly. About a month after Goh Kun’s resignation from the post, the nation is about to fill the vacancy. The government will then be fully installed. Expectations for the 52-year-old prime minister are running high, but there are concerns as well. With economic and diplomatic difficulties on the horizon, Mr. Lee shoulders major responsibilities. He also oversees a cabinet, which is filled by members, none of whom he has endorsed. We hope that he will put to use his experience in administration and politics to surmount the constraints and leave a mark in the history of Korea’s government.
We’d first like to see Prime Minister Lee play a balancing role between reform and stable governance. There is concern that Mr. Lee, who shares the political orientation of President Roh Moo-hyun, will focus on reforms. We ask that he weigh the views from broad sectors of society and refine them so the country does not tilt too much in one direction. Our economy is sluggish, the jobless and credit delinquents are bountiful, and organized labor shows signs of becoming volatile this summer. He must attend to these challenges foremost. Also, the nation seems headed for a divisive period over the deployment of more troops to Iraq and relocating the capital. It would be difficult for the president to backtrack on these issues because he has repeatedly put them forth as pledges. The prime minister however can play a role in mediating the issues.
Many of the issues will require the prime minister’s initiative. Most pressing is getting at the truth of the abduction and the killing in Iraq of Kim Sun-il and to revamp the government’s foreign affairs and national defense system. In addition, he must address the increasing discord between the governing Uri Party, the Blue House and the government. In relations with the opposition party, we hope that he will not hesitate to engage in dialogue and persuasion.
It would be disappointing if Prime Minister Lee contented himself with a largely symbolic role. He has the trust of President Roh. Whether history will record him as the nation’s first real prime ministers, with real powers, will depend solely on his will to do the job.