Surprise usPresident-elect Park Geun-hye finally began to put together her line-up for the new government. She nominated ex-prosecutor Jung Hong-won as the prime minister and former defense minister Kim Jang-soo to lead the newly-created national security department in the presidential office. Former Army Chief of Staff Park Heung-ryul was appointed head of the Presidential Security Service.
The delay in appointments has been raising concerns and questions about whether Park’s government would be ready by inauguration day.
Park will have to expedite follow-up appointments, albeit with thoroughness. She still needs a chief secretary at her side to help put together a competent government amid escalating security tensions and economic challenges.
However, Park must not forget the principle of the grand engagement in appointments that she repeatedly promised during the campaign. She vowed that a principle of open-mindedness would be applied to all public offices so that her government won’t be representing a particular faction or region but serve the entire population.
So far it remains questionable whether she still has that principle in mind. Jung is spoken of as an upright legal counsel, but he comes from South Gyeongsang. Presidents from the Gyeongsang region ruled for four decades. But there was only one prime minister - Roh Jae-bong serving President Roh Tae-woo in 1990 - from the same regional base. President Lee Myung-bak nominated South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Tae-ho but he withdrew. It is too much of a political burden for both the president and prime minister to come from the same region. Park will have to consider regional even-handedness when she makes further appointments.
Her prime ministerial choices have so far demonstrated a distinct lack of imagination. The nominees were both from the judicial branch. Since she headed emergency leadership of the ruling party, she has been recruiting veteran justices or prosecutors. Her partiality toward the judicial sector is in tune with her belief in law, order and principle. But governance requires more than legal uprightness. It requires flexible and comprehensive minds. Park, who has been criticized for wanting communicative skills, needs a more diverse group to assist her governance.
She also should look beyond her resources. She has been recycling the same people she worked with before. There have been no surprises. We hope the follow-up names will be different.