Reshuffle concernsPresident Lee Myung-bak has formed his lineup for his second year in office by filling positions with close aides. These positions include the director of the National Intelligence Service, unification minister, vice chief of staff for the prime minister’s office and education vice minister.
Indications are that the president wants a stronger grip on governance. He has replaced top economic officials, including Finance Minister Kang Man-soo, in a bid to regain the confidence of the market.
During its first year in power, the Lee administration was shaken by the candlelight vigils. It failed to deal with the economic crisis properly, and it gave up too much in legislative battles with opposition parties. With the new lineup, the government should expedite President Lee’s reforms and make efforts to revive the economy.
The lineup could be effective, but it could become too political, too. This is something the president and his aides must avoid.
Won Sei-hoon, the designated NIS chief and former vice mayor of Seoul, has been a long-time aide of President Lee. It is said the previous NIS chief lacked leadership skills and was slowing down reform initiatives.
The NIS should be trying to enhance national security by collecting information from North Korea and abroad as well as contributing to reviving the economy. NIS reform should be proceeding in this direction, but it is questionable whether Won is suitable. His experience is limited to Seoul city government and domestic affairs.
The president and the designate should make the NIS more efficient and avoid interfering in internal affairs. Kim Seok-ki, who is supposed to take over as the head of the National Police Agency, should be reminded of the candlelight vigils and make sustained efforts to uphold the law. The vice chief of staff at the prime minister’s office, Park Young-joon, should be able to look clearly at major government policies. He used to work at the National Assembly and Seoul City Hall but he was released from his secretarial position at the Blue House because of alleged involvement in personnel decisions.
The replacement of the unification minister shows the government’s confusion on North Korea issues. The government tried to abolish the unification ministry but it decided not to in the end. Hyun In-taek, President Lee’s close aide, was involved in the government’s anti-proliferation policy.
He should be able to balance a politically consistent policy toward North Korea and in overcoming current tensions.