[EDITORIALS]Roh’s new system could workIt has become clearer how President Roh Moo-hyun intends to run the government from now on. Delegating routine state affairs to Prime Minister Lee Hai-chan, Mr. Roh has decided to put Chung Dong-young, the unification minister, in charge of foreign relations, national security and unification issues, while Kim Geun-tae, health minister, oversees social and cultural affairs. As Mr. Roh has already made Oh Myung, science minister, a deputy prime minister for science, technology and information, the cabinet has in practice five deputy prime ministers, including those charged with overseeing the economy and education, respectively. It is the first time in history that the cabinet has been divided into teams assuming specific roles. Depending on how this new system is used, it could work in a positive or a negative way; hence, caution is necessary.
The attempt to form a decentralized power structure, moving away from “an imperialistic presidential system,” can be evaluated as positive. Today’s society has become too complex and diverse for one president to address all pending matters and decide all policies. Therefore, what falls into the sphere of each ministry and government organization should not be decided by a single word uttered by the president. The new system should be checked to make sure it doesn’t clash with the current organization of the cabinet. It should also define the extent to which each team leader can actually manage his respective area. More importantly, the roles of the president, the prime minister and the team leaders should be defined. Otherwise, conflict can be expected between the Blue House, the prime minister’s office and the team-leader-cum-ministers. If this ends up as a mere experiment, we could be wasting lots of energy.
If the decentralization of authority can free the president of political strife, that is good news. But even here, there are two sides to the coin. The team leaders are politicians eyeing the next presidential election. If their competition overheats, it will result in turmoil. There is a chance that these men could focus their attention mostly upon their own interests.
The fact that President Roh reshuffled the cabinet, despite criticism that his motives were purely political, indicates that he has been thinking about it for a long time. If so, it is only fitting that measures to cope with possible shortcomings of the new system be implemented.