President Park must stand firmPresident Park Geun-hye’s decision to let Prime Minister Chung Hong-won remain in office raises some serious questions. Has she made the decision out of unidentified urgency? If not, why? Could the prime minister - who was supposed to be replaced with a new face after the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster, revive her earnest drive for a national revamp?
Questions loom over the way the prime minister announced his resignation and how he came to stay in office. Chung tendered his resignation to the president 11 days after the tragic Sewol ferry sinking. His decision was ill-timed considering the strong need to address the calamity as a top official in the government.
But President Park readily accepted his resignation and promised to appoint a new prime minister once the crisis was fully concluded. Since then, Chung has virtually been in a vegetative state: He lost authority to lead the administration, though he remained in office. Civil servants were eagerly looking forward to a new prime minister and cabinet who could revitalize the government.
The president may claim that she had, nevertheless, nominated two candidates for the prime ministerial position who later walked away from their nominations for their own reasons.
However, the responsibility for the appointment fiasco ultimately falls on her shoulders. For Moon Chang-keuk, a journalist turned nominee, she should have demanded confirmation hearings as well as a vote in the National Assembly to approve or reject his nomination. Even if he had been rejected, she should have pressed ahead with a legislative vote according to her convictions. Instead, she gave up on Moon and shifted her responsibility to the legislature and society.
After Moon’s withdrawal, the president should have looked for another prime ministerial candidate. Some individuals, however few, could likely have passed the confirmation hearings - including former prime ministers whose abilities and integrity have already been confirmed.
More importantly, the Blue House should have sought a new face or a veteran who had already passed the legislative screening, even if it may have taken a while. Park’s decision to let Chung remain in office appears to be a sort of “protest” against political circles and society. If she resorts to such a reaction despite over-arching issues, like national reform and reenergizing of the administration, that’s a serious problem.
As a lawmaker, President Park never had such a shaky image. Regardless of her loyalists failing to get nominations from the Grand National Party, she stood firm. But shocked by the Sewol tragedy and continuous appointment failures, she appears to have lost her composure and sense of judgment.
Her aides, including Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon, in particular, have failed to support her properly. Despite her solid trust in them, her governance has been substantially eclipsed by their exclusiveness and intransigence. The president must recover. She must find out what has disrupted her governance and kick off a massive personnel reshuffle to get new blood from the outside.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 27, Page 34