Lee’s reshuffle debacle

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Lee’s reshuffle debacle

President Lee Myung-bak’s August 8 cabinet reshuffle ended up a colossal failure. Kim Tae-ho, Shin Jae-min and Lee Jae-hoon, nominees for Prime Minister, Culture Minister and Knowledge Economy Minister respectively, all resigned voluntarily yesterday.

Watchers of the confirmation hearings will take their decision for granted because all of them had several flaws, including a series of lies, real estate speculation, tax evasion, and so on. It is fortunate that they made the right decision as they will not be able to do their jobs amid all those suspicions.

However, we are disappointed at the process leading to their resignation because the Blue House tried to push forward its nominees despite their defects as public office holders. The Blue House should first take responsibility for that. Before entering the second half of his term, President Lee described a “fair society” as his new vision. But if he turns a blind eye to his nominees’ illegal behaviour - in the name of social custom - his new goal cannot help but turn into an empty slogan.

We welcome the resignation of the three candidates. However, that’s not all. If the administration cannot change a due diligence system riddled with defects, this farce is destined to keep going. The scrutinizing team at the Blue House should be responsible for its unbelievably porous screening system. At a confirmation hearing, one candidate even said that he had already informed the presidential team of all the suspicions raised about him. That means either the team or the president nominated him regardless, knowing all about the skeletons in his closet. The administration should ask itself whether its signature “pragmatism” values candidates’ competence more than their morality.

From now on, the Blue House should pick nominees for public office through much stricter scrutiny. If the president attempts again to appoint his confidants and skipping vital due diligence, it will face harsher criticism. Just in case the administration makes the public disappointed again, its morality will be put to a critical test of the people.

Public office holders - or aspirants - should also take the government’s reshuffling fiasco as an opportunity to look back on their own morality. Last Friday, President Lee stressed that public officials at the Blue House should first reflect on whether their past actions fit the standard of a “fair society” or not.

Today the level of morality the public expects of high government officials is much higher than in the past. If they cannot meet the citizens’ much stricter standards, they’d better give up their dreams of holding important government posts.
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