Back to work for the cabinetAt first glance, the cabinet makeover appears satisfactory. The change in the prime minister and six other ministerial posts are more or less consistent with President Lee Myung-bak’s stress on practicality and neutrality. The appointments were also in keeping with the government’s pledge to work toward greater social and political integration.
We can now expect more consistent and meaningful communication between the government and the ruling party, with three Grand National Party legislators poised to join the cabinet. These expectations are heightened with the filling of the vacant post of minister without portfolio, whose primary role is to work as a bridge between parties and the government.
But it’s a pity that the reshuffle has taken four months. Incumbent Prime Minister Han Seung-soo has been leading a distracted administration with looming uncertainty over who will be replaced and when. This indecisiveness paid little respect to outgoing officials and could have undermined state affairs. Deliberation on the administration’s first extensive reshuffle is understandable, but such a long delay should not be repeated.
The prime minister’s role is defined by the president in our country. In the past, some were restricted to a symbolic role, attending diplomatic and key domestic events, while others acted as the practical second in command. Considering how long President Lee took to decide, we expect the new ministers to be given full authority to show their abilities.
Chung Un-chan, the former president of Seoul National University nominated as prime minister, told reporters that there were too few people around the president who spoke out.
“If I become the prime minister, I may be able to speak to him without reserve,” Chung said. We hope he will do exactly that and give frank advice to the president.
There are worries, however. Chung, a celebrated economist, has been openly against major state projects like the multibillion-won renovation of the four major rivers and called recent government policy “authoritarian.” The presidential office and cabinet must work closely to present a coordinated stance to the public.
Some also believe there may be a bigger agenda behind Chung’s appointment, such as building him up as the next presidential candidate. We hope the new prime minister won’t be swayed by future possibilities that could lead to setbacks, shying away from difficult decisions or tilting toward populist policies. Too much involvement with politics could distract him from state affairs. We hope he will do his best, believing this job to be his last. The presidency is a decision to be left to the public.