Transition team’s preparations begin

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Transition team’s preparations begin

Without taking a break after the tight race, President-elect Park Geun-hye has ramped up preparations for launching a transition team to design her new administration’s organization and policies for the next five years.

In Korea, a president-elect must present his or her “presidential transition committee” before the official inauguration in late February.

The committee, which operates for 67 days, maps out the blueprint of the next government, evaluates the current state budget and clarifies the stance of the new administration on national affairs.

“The first thing that a president-elect should do within 10 days after the election is to make sure the direction that he or she is heading in and get a firm understanding of the reality of the office,” said Lim Chae-jung, former chief of the transition committee for former President Roh Moo-hyun.

Political observers say that whether the new president’s government will succeed or not depends on how a president-elect spends the first 67 days before being inaugurated, which shows how important the transition committee’s roles are in the new president’s administration.

The presidential inauguration ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2013. So Park’s transition committee is expected to be launched no later than the end of December.

Under the current law, Park will be informed of the legal procedures in forming the committee by the incumbent minister of Public Administration and Security. The minister will also inform her of how to run the committee and grant her the right to appoint members.

Park has said she will be open to committee members regardless of their political and social backgrounds.

In this sense, she is also expected to apply her pledges of “consolidation” and “grand impartiality,” appointing people regardless of their background as members of the committee as well.

After enduring a head-to-head race between liberals and conservatives, Park, an icon of conservatives and the daughter of former military strongman Park Chung Hee, faces the difficulty of handling voters who cast nearly half of the eligible votes for liberal rival Moon Jae-in.

Park’s camp has said that her committee will be composed of one chief, one vice chief and 24 members.

Lee Kyung-sook, another former chief under the Lee administration, said selecting the members for the committee is important.

“The president-elect should select people as members of the committee, who share the political philosophy of the new president, so that they can also work under the new administration, after the committee’s jobs end,” Lee said.

Who will be chief of the committee matters the most, as it represents the approach of Park in governing the next administration.

Park is reportedly planning to appoint a couple of high-profile experts, professors and figures as members of the committee.

While hiring her own closest aides, she will also bring in a broad range of figures that can represent a variety of regions, generations and ideologies.

She is reportedly mulling over nominating a new chief who is not a ruling party politician, but a high-profile person from a region other than Busan or Gyeongsang, which is her stronghold, or even a liberal.

When President Lee Myung-bak formed his committee five years ago, he was criticized for appointing only his closest confidants to members of the committee.

Once she completes the appointment, about 150 or 200 government officials of the current administration will be additionally dispatched to the committee in order to help with some administrative work.

The committee will focus on one of Park’s core pledges, dubbed “10 ways to make people happy,” a core member of Park’s camp told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“The biggest difference that Park’s committee will have from the previous presidential transition committees is that she implements what she promised,” the member said.

“We don’t need any additional procedures to carry out her pledges, because she made the pledges that she will never give up.”

The committee is also expected to discuss whether to revive the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, which was abolished by the Lee administration. Lee first determined to shut it down with his transition team when he was president-elect in February 2008. He transferred all of its officials and jobs to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs and the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Park has pledged to restore the ministry. She publicly promised to do it during her campaigns in Busan. If she does, about 30 percent of the officials working at the Land Ministry will be transferred to the newly launched ministry.

Industry observers in the maritime field have complained that the government didn’t pay much attention to the maritime industry since the ministry was closed.

However, concerns are also mounting among government officials who are saying that it would be more efficient to handle maritime affairs in the Land Ministry and young government officials don’t want to move to the newly-launched, but small-sized ministry.

Park will anoint a string of high-ranking government officials, such as the chief secretary of the presidential staff and ministers and review whether or not to reform the current Blue House organization, until early February, as the newly minted ministers will go through a legislative hearing before the inauguration ceremony.

By Kim Hee-jin, Lee So-ah [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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