Pragmatic politicsThe designation of Han Seung-soo as prime minister-to-be suggests that the administration of President-elect Lee Myung-bak will hire people based on pragmatism.
Other presidents have given political matters more weight.
Former President Kim Young-sam appointed Hwang In-seng, a figure from Honam in Jeolla, taking into account regional factors. Former President Kim Dae-jung chose Kim Jong-pil, as the two formed a coalition. President Roh Moo-hyun hired Goh Kun as his first prime minister in recognition of his long experience in state administration and as a gesture to the Honam area.
Choosing Han Seung-soo is more about pragmatism than politics. Han has accumulated a variety of experiences inside and outside the country. He has served as an academic, lawmaker, minister, presidential chief of staff, ambassador to the United States and president of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
President-elect Lee believes that the president and the prime minister have different roles. For instance, Lee asked the new prime minister to take a role as a diplomat for trade and resources.
As the president is busy running state affairs and meeting his counterparts from other countries, it will be an efficient division of labor when the prime minister takes charge of diplomacy for trade and resources.
However, this will be a minor, not a major, prime ministerial role. The Constitution states that the prime minister supervises administrative offices at the order of the president. So the primary role is to chair the cabinet.
In Korea’s presidential system, the prime minister’s role is vague. The prime minister not only supervises the cabinet but also has a right to nominate ministers.
But in past administrations, the latter was simply a formality. According to the Lee administration’s measure of restructuring the government, the prime minister’s role to mediate state affairs has been downsized significantly. Mostly, the Blue House will plan state affairs.
The president-elect will orchestrate state affairs, and he has the determination to do so. In this structure, it is uncertain how much power the prime minister can have to oversee flaws in the cabinet and to nominate ministers.
Han said his cabinet would be a working organization, but that depends on the how the president-elect and the future prime minister collaborate.