[EDITORIALS]Japan’s nebulous nukesFrom the moment President Roh Moo-hyun appointed Lee Jae-joung, an Episcopalian clergyman, as his nominee for unification minister, we opposed the choice as inappropriate. Not only does Mr. Lee have a past record of participation in a scandal involving 1 billion won ($1,060,000) of illegal campaign funds in the 2001 presidential election, he is simply not qualified for the post. Mr. Lee does not possess any expertise in inter-Korean relations nor does he appear to hold firm convictions with regard to South Korea’s role as a free democratic country. Moreover, he does not have the charisma to lead the government’s foreign affairs and national security team.
Our concerns were shown to be well-founded at the national assembly’s confirmation hearing when Mr. Lee hesitated for a second when asked who started the Korean War. He also said that “history” must evaluate Kim Il-Sung, the war criminal responsible for the Korean War. Mr. Lee couldn’t even explain the concept of a “nuclear umbrella,” a term that has become well understood even among the general public. There was also evidence that Mr. Lee had masterminded a mudslinging campaign against the opposition party during the presidential election by spreading rumors that their candidate’s son had illegally dodged the draft.
These are more than enough reasons why Mr. Lee should not be confirmed. The unification minister is the representative for the South Korean side at inter-Korean ministerial meetings. He is the mastermind who needs to lead the South Korean side during negotiations with the North. But the pathetic figure that Mr. Lee cut at the confirmation hearing was sadly lacking in the traits required to negotiate with the North Koreans.
And yet there seems to be no way to prevent Mr. Lee from becoming the minister. The Grand National Party thinks that Mr. Lee is an inappropriate candidate but their view is only a minority opinion and cannot halt Mr. Lee’s confirmation. And even while the confirmation hearing has stirred up some controversy, it is not even legally necessary for the National Assembly to approve Mr. Lee for his nomination to be confirmed. So Mr. Lee’s appointment is effectively a done deal and now the public will have to watch in apprehension every time “Minister Lee Jae-joung” sits at the negotiation table with North Korean representatives. It is frustrating to see how far the president will go in letting his personal friendships and obstinacy triumph over reason in deciding governmental appointments.