[EDITORIALS]Appointment rewards LeePresident Roh Moo-hyun pushed ahead yesterday with his appointment of Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung. With that move, the current administration is continuing to have a minister leaning toward the North after former unification minister Lee Jong-seok. Since Mr. Lee spent some time in jail for conveying 1 billion won ($1 million) to the election camp of Mr. Roh, this promotion not only places a person of the same political standing as unification minister but is also a reward to Mr. Lee for having been to jail. The unification minister is the delegation head representing the South in inter-Korean ministerial level talks. That a person who has many flaws has been chosen to fill that post makes us speechless.
By becoming a candidate, the past and present of Mr. Lee became exposed to people. As a father and the head of the Anglican Church of Korea, Mr. Lee strove for a Christian belief based on socialism and has shown a warm heart and treated radical progressive scholars equally, to such an extent that he was at times too lenient. He awarded a prize to a professor who was sentenced by the court as a spy. In a National Assembly hearing, although the Korean War was caused by an invasion of the South by the North, he didn’t answer clearly a question asking him about the nature of the war. Asked about his assessment of war criminal Kim Il Sung, he said that history would be the judge. He also could not explain the meaning of a nuclear umbrella provided by the United States, showing his lack of proper knowledge for his job.
Only a date has been set for the six-party talks but the president and unification minister are making remarks domestically and abroad that suggest that the North’s recent nuclear test was no big deal. Not only is the engagement policy toward the North, which is lopsided and is virtually defenseless against it, a problem, but also the fact that a religious person that only knows a peaceful approach toward the North has become the head of inter-Korean exchanges.
One must worry that his appointment as minister could result in a reckless effort to pursue an inter-Korean summit meeting without proper reasoning, or a resumption of rice and fertilizer aid provided to the North, despite no change in the North’s behavior. It is worrisome that the North Korean nuclear test could be turned into something less than a minor affair. This is truly a strange country in which the president and anyone under him is not concerned, despite facing a North Korean nuclear threat.