[EDITORIALS]The minister’s resignationThe deputy prime minister of finance and economy, Lee Hun-jai, who has been suspected of engaging in real estate speculation, has resigned from the post. He is the first cabinet member to resign as a result of a controversy stemming from his own report of changes in personal assets.
Having watched this situation develop, from when the suspicion was first raised to the day Mr. Lee tendered his resignation, it is clear that the government’s system for screening candidates for important posts is flawed, and that the measures the government took after the questionable transactions were exposed were not proper. Because the government tried to gloss over the suspicions without verifying or confirming the truth of them, the people’s distrust only increased, and the fairness of the government’s personnel policy was compromised.
We have already witnessed many appointments of high-ranking officials in which a problem was aggravated because proper measures were not taken in time. The Lee Hun-jai controversy is just another example. We urge the government to put its screening system in order so that this will not happen yet again. We also think it necessary to create a system by which the government can independently confirm public servants’ reports of their assets, instead of relying on their voluntary reports.
Although there are signs that the economy is improving, it is still difficult to make an optimistic prediction. The government has presented various plans, such as a comprehensive investment plan and a medium-term plan for start-up businesses, but there is a long way to go before such plans can bear fruit. Considering the scale and the potential power of Korea’s economy, it will not be swayed by the replacement of a deputy prime minister. But if the absence of the head of the economic team is prolonged, there is the worrisome possibility that it could create policy confusion and unease in the markets. In that sense, the sooner a successor is appointed, the better.
Mr. Lee’s successor should be someone who has the leadership to spearhead the revival of the economy and expand its growth potential for the remainder of President Roh Moo-hyun’s term, of which less than three years remain. In particular, the new economic team leader should be a person who has confidence in the market economy and who can initiate market-friendly policies. He should be able to boost the morale of the business community and revive the vitality of our economy without being swayed by politicians’ anti-market and anti-business logic. He should also have the ability to coordinate the work of the economic ministries and the Blue House economic team. Fighting over hegemony, creating noise within the government over leadership and the confusion in policy that would ensue should be avoided. For these reasons, a “reform code” appointment will not work. If too much emphasis is placed on the “reform code,” it will be difficult not only to find a capable person for the post, but also to revive the economy.