A man of convictionPresident Park Geun-hye has nominated Moon Chang-keuk, former editor in chief of the JoongAng Ilbo, as her new prime minister. With the move, a national drive to revamp the administration, the Blue House and the legislature after the Sewol ferry disaster is expected to pick up steam. President Park has paid keen attention to scrutinizing Moon’s career as a journalist after former Supreme Court justice Ahn Dae-hee had to withdraw his nomination even before a confirmation hearing because of an uproar over his hefty earnings from practicing law after retiring from the Supreme Court.
Moon pursued the sole career of journalism before teaching after his retirement in 2012. The president’s decision reflects a meaningful change in a previous appointment style based on a narrow pool of talents including lawyers, bureaucrats and politicians.
Moon’s nomination is a drastic departure from her preference for personal connections. Overdependence on personal relationships has long been criticized for inviting excessive personal loyalty and damaging the autonomy of the cabinet. With this nomination, Park must substantially delegate her power to ministers and create an environment for “horizontal” or more equal communication with them.
Park also needs to find effective ways to embody the spirit of the Constitution, which authorizes the prime minister to propose candidates for ministers to the president. She must not forget people’s desire for change after the Sewol tragedy and the June 4 local elections. We hope such aspirations are fully reflected in her follow-up appointments for ministerial and presidential secretary positions.
Moon has kept a certain distance from power through his 38 years in journalism while maintaining an open-minded conservatism. In an April 2011 column titled “The Park Geun-hye Phenomenon,” he wrote, “When she speaks a few words, her aides come up with their own interpretations, which grabs the headlines. Aren’t we creating a wizard of our own just like in ‘The Wizard of Oz?’?” That was a bitter criticism of then-lawmaker and presidential hopeful Park’s communication style. We hope he keeps talking to the president in such a straightforward way.
The government must not stop reforms to our society. The Blue House must press ahead with a revamp of officialdom without interruption. As he said in an acceptance speech, Moon must keep his promise “to help the president create a safer and happier Korea.”
JoongAng Ilbo, June 11, Page 30