Toward a fresh startPresident Park Geun-hye has announced a new lineup for her cabinet 15 months after taking office in 2013. In a swift follow-up to Thursday’s reshuffle of her senior secretaries at the Blue House, she changed seven out of 17 ministers in the administration.
With the decision, the power vacuum from the resignation of Prime Minister Chung Hong-won and other top government officials is nearly ended. The question is how the new lineup can recover public trust, which was battered by the government’s lethargic response to the tragic Sewol ferry sinking.
With a shake-up of her cabinet, Park must restore stability to the administration and bring some changes to her top-down style of governance.
The most outstanding feature of the reshuffle is a massive infusion of politicians. The nominee for deputy prime minister for the economy and finance minister, Choi Kyung-hwan, and the nominee for minister of gender equality and family, Kim Hee-jung, are both lawmakers with their own constituencies, and the nominee for minister of culture, sports and tourism, Jung Sung-keun, is a politician brought in from outside the legislature. The nominee for minister of security and public administration, Chong Jong-sup, although he is a law professor, served as deputy chairman of the Saenuri Party’s nomination screening committee for the 2012 general elections. That lineup marks a sharp departure from Park’s knee-jerk preference for bureaucrats, generals and lawyers.
The Sewol disaster laid bare all the bad practices in our government system, particularly the time-honored collusion between civil servants and the industries they oversee. As the president vowed to eradicate such malpractices, those new faces must faithfully carry out that mission. But there are worries about their ability to lead such reforms given their lack of experience in the field.
Deputy Prime Minister-designate Choi, former floor leader of the Saenuri Party and former minister of knowledge economy in the Lee Myung-bak administration, is expected to inspire vitality and stability. But he must not let his concentrated power lead to corruption.
The nominee for deputy prime minister for society, Kim Myung-soo, who also covers education, social affairs and culture, needs to strike a balance between principles and harmony. As his conservative temper could clash with a number of liberal school superintendents who were elected in the June 4 local elections, he must proceed wisely. President Park has added the new deputy prime minister position to complement the deputy prime minister for the economy and her security office chief at the Blue House. She must delegate power to all three. She must end a culture in which ministers only write down her directions.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 14, Page 30