New role for prime ministerKim Yong-joon, a former Constitutional Court chief currently heading the presidential transition team, has been named to be the first prime minister for the Park Geun-hye government. Before revelations about his taxes and sons’ military service surfaced yesterday, Kim was known for overcoming polio early in his life and being an upright Supreme Court justice. He was praised for his human qualities, the conviction of his rulings and his alleged belief in law and order. He seemed to embody what the president-elect promised to do as leader of the country: To reinforce the principles of law in Korea, strengthen social security and better care for the weak.
Yet even before yesterday’s allegations, the people were not greatly impressed by Kim’s nomination. Expectations may have been high for the new government with its all its grand promises of a new age of unity and fairness. The choice did not exactly raise eyebrows, but it didn’t elicit stomps and cheers, either.
A prime minister was named, but what we heard was “Oh!” instead of “Wow!” Even the opposition party refrained from making an immediate response.
But even before yesterday’s allegations, insiders were doubtful of Kim’s governing talents. He was totally in the dark when one of his committee members, Choi Dae-suk, suddenly quit. He sat waiting in a car because he was unaware of a last-minute mix-up in the schedule to announce the government reorganization plan. He didn’t seem like Park’s go-to guy.
If Kim is approved by the National Assembly, he will be bestowed with unprecedented authority. Park has promised to give more power to the prime minister.
The new prime minister will be encouraged to carry out his expanded role and responsibilities. To do so, he must not be content to be a mere shadow to the president. When the president errs, he must raise his voice and keep her in check.
Under the reorganization plan, the economy will be led by the deputy prime minister and security and foreign affairs by the national security department of the Blue House. The jurisdiction of the prime minister will likely be limited to society and public safety.
One issue that has to be raised is that the president-elect has been highly secretive in her appointments. Her discreet style is understandable, but she should have listened to more voices. Perhaps the late allegations against Kim are proof of her not listening to enough people.