The election is not over yetFirst, the labor union of court workers received a tip on a justice nominee and conducted a survey on the candidate. Then, the nominee’s reputation became an issue for verification. From his spending on meals to the way he dressed in his judge’s gown, every detail about him was made public. Finally, a group of 509 law professionals issued a statement to protest the nomination.
There was never a confirmation hearing like the one for the nomination of Lee Dong-heub as the next chief justice of the Constitutional Court. I have no intention to defend Lee. I also wonder if he is really fit for the job.
More than 30 allegations surrounding him showed that he had a problem in managing himself as a senior public servant. After becoming a judge at the young age of 27, he lived for nearly 40 years exactly as he wanted, without caring what others thought of him. In the end, that sense of privilege got him in hot water. But the process of vetting him also went too far. I am not talking about the contents, but the methods.
The labor union of the public servants collected information on a specific person and conducted a survey. Was this appropriate? In the confirmation hearing, a lawmaker said that 70 researchers at the Constitutional Court all disagreed with the nomination. Is this normal?
When popularity is used as a standard for a nomination, it is hard for a reformist to become a leader.
Rumors about Lee continued, and an accusation was even made that he released a local gang after a lawyer’s lobbying activities. When the verification process becomes wrought with emotion, it can easily descend into character assassinations or bullying. The confirmation hearings even earned one opposition lawmaker the nickname of “the threshing machine of the soul.”
The aftermath of the confirmation hearings for Lee’s nomination will likely not be pretty. The people who were talked about as possible nominees for the new prosecutor-general said they don’t want to be appointed. They all said they don’t want to share the same deadly fate. As the first prosecutor-general of the Park Geun-hye administration, he or she will face the difficult task of reforming the prosecution, but the fear of confirmation hearings also played an important role. “For anyone to be appointed for a senior public servant post, the scrutiny will be as strong as that of a presidential candidate,” a lawyer said.
Why was the confirmation hearing this time so much more troubled than in the past? It could be the flaws of the nominee, or that incumbent President Lee Myung-bak and President-elect Park Geun-hye made the wrong choice. Still, the specter of the Dec. 19 presidential election lingers on the background.
“The presidential election was only a month ago,” said one politician. “Although the fates of Park, Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo have all been determined, the excitement and fever from the election have not died out yet. Public sentiment was split across regions, generations and wealth, and the ruptures have not mended.”
Twitter was alight with depressing comments from the 48 percent who voted for Moon, with allegations of ballot-count rigging a typical refrain. Some people even held candlelight vigils, demanding a recount.
Disturbing signs were also seen in the labor community, along with a recent series of suicides by workers.
As the victor of the election, Park must try to embrace the needs of the 48 percent who backed the wrong horse. But her first presentation came in the form of a sealed envelope as she named her transition team. Her aides have also indicated that she hates blabbermouths, and members of her transition team, ruling party politicians and public servants have recently been avoiding journalists.
Feeling beaten down, the opposition party now more than ever feels the need to demonstrate its power. Amid such a tense atmosphere, the ruling and opposition parties can only return to the familiar pattern of battles and confrontation, rather than pursue a new politics of working together.
Park’s campaign slogans - “100 percent Korea” and “the era of people’s happiness” - cannot be achieved unless she wins over the public and cooperates with the National Assembly.
She needs to realize that politics works best when blabbermouths talk, and state affairs may proceed more smoothly when she feels a little uncomfortable.
The nomination of Lee was just a hint of the challenges she will face, and it is clear that such preliminary scrutiny of her moves was needed.
Park should escape from her isolated leadership and return to the more humble and human figure the country was shown in the run-up to the election. “I will put down everything and devote my political life to the people,” she said on the eve of the election. She must revisit her desperate appeal from that night.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kwon Suk-chun