Ambition beats moralsEnvironment Minister Lee Chi-beom has abruptly left his seat. He said he resigned because he wanted to help United New Democratic Party presidential candidate Lee Hae-chan win the upcoming election. This is the first time that an incumbent minister has resigned to join a campaign group for a presidential candidate.
There is a saying that you can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink. Thus, there is no way to stop Lee. But his decision disappointed many public officials who consider a ministerial post the peak of government work. He also imposed a political burden on the president, who appointed him to his seat in the first place.
We can easily find evidence that Lee does not set much store by his seat. He said, “The former Prime Minister Lee [Hae-chan], whom I have known for over 20 years, declared his run for presidency, and I thought it was reasonable that I help him when he is in need.”
This means that Lee, the environment minister, puts more importance on personal loyalty than his responsibility for public affairs. When he was told that his actions would put an extra strain upon the Environment Ministry, he rationalized his decision by saying, “Ministerial or deputy ministerial seats are political appointments, and those occupying those posts cannot avoid making political decisions.”
He also criticized the grand canal plan that Grand National Party candidate Lee Myung-bak had proposed, calling it “against common sense.”
At the time, his offer to resign has not been accepted and he should have refrained from making negative comments about the opposition’s candidate. If he wanted to resign, he should have walked away on Aug. 8 when there was a cabinet reshuffle. Because of Lee’s inconsiderate behavior President Roh Moo-hyun will have to reshuffle again. He even made people suspicious that he is interfering in the primary race for the liberals. He reminded the public that the president only has six months to go until the end of his administration and faces becoming the lame duck. He should be criticized for putting his patron in an uncomfortable position.
The Blue House did not make an official comment about this occasion. But some say that they are not happy with Lee. But this is something that this administration has brought upon itself. This administration should remember that they are the ones who issued excessive numbers of senior seats and ministerial posts so that they could use them to run in the parliamentary elections. For those who earned the glories of a high post so easily, it may be too much to expect them to understand the dignity and responsibility a government official must hold. We feel sorry for the public who had to endure this administration for the past five years.