[VIEWPOINT]Moon rose, and the Uri Party fell

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[VIEWPOINT]Moon rose, and the Uri Party fell

What will be the balance sheet of the collision between President Roh Moo-hyun and the Uri Party over the appointment of Moon Jae-in as justice minister? Looking at the results superficially, it can be said it was a “win-win game” for both sides, since President Roh made it clear he had the right to make personnel appointments, while the governing party stopped Mr. Moon, the former Blue House senior secretary for civil affairs, from being appointed as the new justice minister. However, the political community sees this as a loss for the governing party and a victory for President Roh.
Let’s look at the conversation between the president and the governing party leaders at the luncheon held on Aug. 6. President Roh said, “Why did you talk so openly to the press, Chairman Kim?” and “Chairman Kim, I remember you once said, ‘Let’s take off the badges of rank and talk.’ ”
That was open criticism against Mr. Kim. It was also open sarcasm when Mr. Roh said to him, “Thank you for helping me as a committee member who supported me during the 2002 presidential election.”
President Roh probably wanted to say, “Didn’t you try to take me down and make Assemblyman Chung Mong-joon the new candidate?” or “For all that, I made you minister of health and welfare, and you are now the chairman of the party I established. How can you do this to me?”
The four-point agreement that came out that day can be interpreted in the same vein. “The party can advise and make suggestions, but the final decision will be made by the president.”
The leaders of the governing party had to depart the Blue House without getting a definite answer from the president on the issue of Mr. Moon’s appointment, and had to watch the Blue House nervously until the announcement was made.
The main reason the drama went in reverse was because the party chose the wrong target. Chairman Kim had said, “Mr. Moon is the most suitable candidate for justice minister.”
And the general evaluation of the Blue House and the governing party on the issue was the same. Even people critical of the current administration said, “Moon Jae-in looks like a good man.” The justification for the opposition to the appointment, that Mr. Moon is close to the president even though there is nothing wrong with him, was considered weak.
Then why did the governing party oppose his appointment even more actively than the opposition party?
One lawmaker who served as a cabinet minister under the current administration said, “A private interest intervened.” What was the “private interest,” then? It was the calculation that “the party should secure a clear upper hand by pressing the Blue House while the president was cowed by the loss of the local elections and the resignation of Vice Prime Minister of Education Kim Byung-joon,” he added.
There was also reaction from the forces hailing from the Honam region. The complaint was that the voters from Honam helped elect Roh Moo-hyun as president, but the people from Busan get all the benefits.
There was also a hidden intention, that “the chances are good that Mr. Moon will be included among the presidential candidates of the governing party.”
A person who knows both Mr. Roh and Mr. Moon well said, “There is a reason why Mr. Moon was left in the same position while Lee Byung-wan was promoted from presidential secretary to senior presidential secretary for public relations, and then to the chief of staff of the Blue House.”
He said that, since Mr. Roh believed “the presidential chief of staff and the head of the National Intelligence Service must share the same fate as the president,” he avoided appointing Mr. Moon to such a post for his own future.
To such an extent, their relationship is special. And that is why suspicion that “another governing party’s presidential candidate hailing from Youngnam region is being fostered by the Blue House” has started to grow in the governing camp.
However, it would have been better for the governing party to raise objections to the arbitrary personnel appointments made by the “386 generation” presidential secretaries, which were exposed by the reshuffling of the vice minister of culture and tourism, rather than putting all their effort toward protesting Mr. Moon’s appointment.
If the governing party did so, it could get support from the people as well as the officialdom.
The party made a mistake because it aimed at the wrong target, and as a result, Mr. Roh snatched the ball.
The key to the governing party’s survival does not lie in confronting the president face-to-face. The party has to show that power, principle and leadership can keep the government from going down the wrong path.
Whether a captain is brought in from outside or appointed internally, it is no use after the flagship, “Republic of Korea,” is shipwrecked.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Du-woo
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