Cabinet calamityThe appointment of Han Seung-soo as prime minister was finally endorsed by the National Assembly yesterday, officially launching the new administration four days after President Lee Myung-bak was sworn in.
The bizarre scene in which a cabinet meeting is attended by the prime minister of the former administration won’t be repeated, but the composition of the cabinet is far from finalized. As unification, gender equality and environment minister nominees have withdrawn from consideration due to suspicion over past misdeeds, new nominees have to be selected and then go through hearings in the National Assembly. It is uncertain when the minister of health, welfare and family will be appointed due to the main opposition party’s refusal to endorse a committee report on the current nominee. If the situation persists, some ministers from former President Roh Moo-hyun’s administration might have to attend cabinet meetings.
The Lee Myung-bak administration’s personnel mess has disrupted the smooth running of state affairs. But the administration can’t entirely blame the opposition party for delaying the procedure, because the administration itself is even more responsible for the current disaster. If the Lee administration had followed proper procedures and selected nominees carefully, it could easily have averted this debacle. Documents regarding nominees’ real estate transactions and holdings, tax records and dual citizenship are all available. Nevertheless, the administration nominated flawed figures as ministers. This is not simply because the personnel affairs system is flawed, but also because the administration failed in reading the people.
President Lee said yesterday that the administration shares responsibility for the current situation to some extent, mentioning a need to improve the personnel system.
A good personnel system is important, but what’s even more vital is to realize how hard it is to manage state matters. People wonder if the president, being confident after his landslide victory with a margin of 5.3 million votes in the election, had an arrogant belief that even if the nominees had ethical flaws, it would be no problem as long as they proved to be competent. If he did, he failed to gauge public opinion.
He should remember that it is difficult to win the hearts of the people, but it takes only a moment to lose them.
Those who aspire to enter officialdom must see this cabinet chaos as a chance to look back on their past. A person who has accumulated wealth by illegal means such as real-estate speculation must not even think about becoming a public official, even if he or she receives a nomination.
Those who had to withdraw from consideration as cabinet members and undergo severe humiliation must have their own side of the story. But there is a limit to how much the people can take.