Not a great startPresident-elect Park Geun-hye has announced her first key appointments, including chief secretary, chief spokesman and two other spokespeople. Given the pivotal roles they will play before the new government officially kicks off in February, people’s attention is focused on whether Park has made the right choices. It is wise of her to exclude her loyalists or people hailing from South and North Gyeongsang - the traditional power base of Park. Regrettably, however, both the opposition and the ruling camps are expressing strong opposition to her appointment of Yoon Chang-jung as her chief spokesman.
After her election victory, Park underscored the significance of national reconciliation and integration as evidenced by her “commitment to take the path of grand coalition and people’s happiness” and her vows to “open a new chapter for grand unity in the modern history of Korean politics” during her campaign. But her decision to put Yoon in the chief spokesperson’s seat raised strong doubt about her willingness or ability to erect a big tent. Yoon, a former ultra-right journalist, has described people who joined the opposition camp as “political prostitutes,” not to mention “dirty Ahn Cheol-soo,” which refers to the independent candidate who ultimately endorsed the DUP’s Moon Jae-in. That’s why the opposition party has demanded an immediate withdrawal of Park’s appointment by calling Yoon a man “who habitually resorted to extreme, divisive rhetoric based on his extremely conservative values.”
Yoon yesterday came up with an apology for injuries he has inflicted on many through his columns and TV interviews. But actions speak louder than words. He must demonstrate his sincerity for two months until the launch of the Park administration. If Yoon repeats his provocations against opponents, the next government will be criticized for violating the pledges Park made in the campaign. Yoon and the other two spokespeople will represent Park’s views after a transition committee is established. It would be absurd if the chief spokesman provides a reason for conflict rather than helping the transition team and building public consensus for Park’s agendas.
The importance of appointments cannot be overemphasized. Park’s camp should thoroughly review its screening process. Even insiders in the Saenuri Party are curious how Yoon was chosen as chief spokesman for the transition committee. Park’s camp must filter unwanted noise before announcing an official lineup of the committee soon. We hope Park learns a lesson before it’s too late.