Imprudent cabinet reshuffleWith only a few months left before his tenure ends, President Roh Moo-hyun said abruptly that he will reshuffle his cabinet. The Blue House said it will accept the resignation of Justice Minister Kim Sung-ho, Agriculture Minister Park Hong-soo and Information and Communication Minister Rho Jun-hyong. With those changes, four or five ministers are expected to be replaced.
The Blue House says a cabinet reshuffle is a presidential right and there should be no criticism about it.
That right, however, is given to the president only for smooth governance. If he is abusing the right for political interest, it certainly deserves criticism.
The reasons for replacing the ministers, including Kim, are ambiguous. A senior Blue House official has explained, “It was not planned, and it is a passive reshuffle following the resignations offered by the ministers.”
Does it make sense that the ministers voluntarily offered to leave their offices at this point, when there are only a few months left in the president’s tenure? If that is true, they must announce the “special reasons.”
Even if Roh appoints new ministers, they will have no time to actually work. There are only four months to go before the presidential election, and Roh’s tenure ends officially in six months. If replacements are named, the National Assembly will hold confirmation hearings next month, and the ministers will have to devote their time to appearing at the legislative questioning until the end of this year.
It takes at least three months for a minister to get a grasp of his duties, how can a new minister work properly under such circumstances?
The follow-up measures for the free trade agreement with the United States and integration of communication and broadcast businesses are only two of the urgent pending issues, and it appears the administration will leave them alone until the next president assumes office.
What an administration must do at the end of its term is simple. It must conclude all the projects it has started. It is not the time for a new minister to begin a new job. In the past, administrations carried out cabinet reshuffles at the end of their terms, but it was to achieve political neutrality to manage the presidential election. The upcoming reshuffle, however, does not fall under such reasoning.
That is why skepticism arose that the reshuffle was done to add minister titles to the resumes of Roh’s close aides who will run in the presidential election.
Some also criticized that it is a reshuffle for Roh to pay back his aides. Even if such criticism has its basis in misunderstanding, a cabinet reshuffle without a convincing explanation must be postponed.