Chin’s resignation doesn’t add up

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Chin’s resignation doesn’t add up

Minister of Health and Welfare Chin Young is set on resigning. At first it looked as if he was taking responsibility for scaling down the universal basic monthly allowance President Park Geun-hye pledged during her campaign. But he denies any accountability attached to his offer of resignation. Instead, he cited frustration and powerlessness as reasons for resignation. Meeting reporters at the airport upon returning from an overseas trip, he said he felt he could not live up to the expectations as a minister.

He also confessed that he had been overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness during the clash between the government and the Seoul city administration over budgeting of the day care program. He said he tried to seek a solution, but his ministry could do little because budgeting was the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance and Strategy and staffing was controlled by the Ministry of Security and Public Administration.

Chin’s comments raise serious questions. First is the reason for his offer to resign. Limitations and quarrels over budgeting and manpower are problems any government office faces. Many of his cabinet peers would have to step down if those were reasons hindering a minister from doing his or her job. Second, Chin should have studied his future office before his nomination. He should have known the budget and staff his ministry runs on. If not, he didn’t do his homework. If he had known but was unsure, he should not have taken the office.

The timing and manner of his offered resignation also does not befit a responsible minister. When announcing the basic pension scheme, the president would have to more or less apologize for the downward revision of her original plan. The government would have to come up with a plausible case to persuade the public and opposition about the new scheme framework. The government is in an emergency state. The minister, who should be taking the heat, is cowardly for ducking out.

The incumbent administration has been under fire for a chain of controversial resignations by senior officials, disturbing governance as well as undermining its credibility. Yang Kun, while stepping down as the head of the Board of Audit and Inspection, implied there was high-level pressure behind his resignation. Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook tendered his resignation as a kind of challenge to the president.

Chin has long been tapped as a ruling party candidate to run against Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon in next year’s election. But we cannot feel safe about leaving the administration of our capital in the hands of a person who cannot run a government office because of limited budget and staff.
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