Appointment flip-flop

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Appointment flip-flop

The Blue House has recently re-established a National Security Council and put Chun Hae-sung, head of the Unification Policy Office at the Ministry of Unification, as a key aide in charge of designing national security strategies for the president. But Chun, an expert in inter-Korean negotiations, was then relocated to the headquarters of inter-Korean talks after just one week in office.

Cheon Seong-whun, head of the Korea Institute of National Unification, was instead brought in to fill the new role in the presidential advisory office.

Appointments can always be reversed, but the recent fiasco in the Blue House has again exposed its immaturity in communication and indiscretions in appointment procedures.

The explanation the Blue House came up with was ridiculously unconvincing. Min Kyung-wook, the new presidential spokesman, said Chun had returned to his speciality of inter-Korean negotiations upon the strong pleading of Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae, who argued that Chun’s role was important during sensitive times with North Korea. But this can hardly be credible. The appointment could not have taken place without prior consultation and endorsement from the minister. The presidential office may have its reasons for hiding the real story behind the reshuffle, but it could at least have come up with a more plausible explanation.

There could be many reasons. Some of the president’s close aides could have raised the issue of Chun’s questionable behavior under the past administration and his alleged clash with members of the security council. Appointment complications and mix-ups on the foreign, security and unification affairs front have happened before. Choi Dae-suk, a professor at Ewha Womans University and an expert on North Korean affairs, suddenly retired from the transition team’s subcommittee on foreign, defense and unification affairs.

Border tensions and the unpredictable nature of North Korea have been elevated under young ruler Kim Jong-un, who is proving to be as unruly and provocative as his father, especially after he publicly executed his powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek. The two Koreas embarked on much-awaited high-level talks but have yet to make any progress. The foreign and security team must work in congruity to draw the full support and confidence of the people. The government must be honest with the people on national security affairs. It must stop making mistakes and missteps that can undermine public confidence in the administration.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 14, Page 30
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