Stay neutral in turbulenceHan Duk-soo, the head of Korea’s support council for the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement, was appointed as Korea’s new prime minister yesterday. We believe it is a positive policy decision to fill the position with a seasoned, experienced official rather than a politician with an ideological agenda.
President Roh Moo-hyun, although he withdrew from the ruling Uri Party, is still under great scrutiny over whether he will stay politically neutral. Many observers speculate Mr. Roh is determined to influence the presidential election rather than spending his energy on a constitutional revision that is unlikely to pass in the National Assembly. Now it is time for the cabinet to maintain its political neutrality. In order to do so and to earn the public’s trust, politicians-turned-ministers should extricate themselves from their past political ties with certain political parties.
Yesterday, the heads of five political parties pledged they would hold a transparent and bribe-free presidential election this year. They also vowed not to offer bribes to voters and not to push any negative campaigns or campaigns fanning the flames of regionalism.
Bribes to voters, a very common practice in past elections, are nearly a thing of the past now. And we acknowledge Mr. Roh’s contribution and efforts to establish more transparent election campaigns. What’s most important now is maintaining a fair election process.
Prime ministers, until last year, indirectly supported ruling parties by visiting important election districts and announcing measures in line with a certain political party’s agendas. If the authorities fail to end that practice, it will only lead to overheated election campaigns, which will cause disruptions in the government’s operations.
The new cabinet will not be able to push totally new policies. There are already stacks of policies and measures that need attention. Issues such as reform of the national pension plan and negotiations over a U.S- Korea free trade agreement are directly related to the nation’s future. And it is very fortunate that Mr. Han, armed with a high-level of expertise and a strong will, was chosen to lead the cabinet. He is known for having a lukewarm manner and little political or ideological inclinations, which can be a real advantage while the administration faces turbulence at the end of its term. The new cabinet will get good reviews as long as it properly manages two major areas ― wrapping up important issues such as free trade agreement negotiations and the fair supervision of the coming election.