[Viewpoint]Stand by their manIn my Jan. 22 column, I called for the people to grant a grand pardon. I did so because the new administration claimed it was having a hard time finding candidates for prime minister and other ministerial positions since flawless people are so rare and the public was unforgiving. Small irregularities, such as real estate speculation, have been widely practiced, so I suggested forgiving trivial faults and moving forward.
Not surprisingly, I received plenty of criticism and insults, especially from the young generation, who have had relatively fewer chances to make mistakes. I had the honor of my column being posted on a college board, and critics encouraged others to write critical responses.
However, I was undeterred because I believed it was more important to give competent individuals the opportunity to display their abilities than to pick on their faults. I thought a “dream team” should be formed immediately to support the president, who was elected to work in the challenging domestic and international economic environments.
Maybe I have just had enough of the so-called 386 generation, who got into power advocating their morals but turned out to be incompetent and stubborn.
Nevertheless, I am disappointed by the new administration. The ministerial picks are not only tarnished but also incompetent. They cannot handle problems, much less prevent them in advance. With fear of mad cow disease sweeping the whole country, the minister in charge of beef imports seemed completely unprepared at the National Assembly hearing. He would have been better off keeping silent because when he spoke, he stirred up more trouble.
Other ministers are not much different. A minister defended the Blue House secretaries accused of real estate speculation by saying, “Who will buy land in the countryside if not urbanites?” How can we trust him when he proposed firing 10,000 local civil servants?
The 386 generation was at least consistent, even when they were moving backward. The officials of the new administration go back and forth and end up in the same place. They are in a pitch-black tunnel, not knowing which way they are headed. The government is confused about whether it should pursue a beef deal with the United States or an agreement with the World Trade Organization.
But the lack of consultation between ministries is a rather minor issue. The administration seems not to know whether to draft a supplementary budget, whether to create innovative cities, whether to build new towns or whether to raise or lower the exchange rate.
I was immediately skeptical when the administration gave government agencies strange names, and government’s missteps make civilians uneasy.
While confusion and mistakes plague the eager president, the president himself must take responsibility. After all, the mistakes have been committed by the president’s handpicked officials.
I am not writing to confess that my view turned out to be wrong. I have to say something that will surely bring more criticism.
While some speak of reshuffling the lineup, I oppose the idea of changing either the secretaries or the cabinet. I think the president was right when he said, “Why should they be changed when they are trained now?”
However, that is not the reason why I oppose replacements. I know the president’s appointment style. While he boasted his choices were the “best of the best,” they are in fact the best of his friends. It is obvious he would pick his friends, and those who did not make the first cut from the shallow pool are likely to be unreliable. The first picks have at least already been trained.
Hwang Hui, a renowned premier of the Joseon Dynasty, was not the most competent from the beginning. He was impeached and reprimanded for multiple cases of abuse of power and granting of favors. However, he was moved by the unchanging confidence of King Sejong and reinvented himself as one of the greatest ministers of the dynasty.
It might be a stretch to compare the incompetent officials of the current administration to the great Hwang Hui, but they need a role model. They should try to reinvent themselves. Why don’t they use their brains for the country’s benefit as they did for their own? They should learn to put others first and pay back the president who trusted them, not to mention the citizens.
*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hoon-beom