Expectations for the reshuffleThree months have passed since the Sewol ferry disaster. Its sinking became a tragic symbol of botched Korean development, which has taken public safety for granted for the sake of fast results and money. Life, Koreans swore, should never be the same. So far, 293 bodies have been recovered from the sea, but 11 people remain unaccounted for.
The public was enraged by the appalling revelation of collusion between public and private power, habitual negligence in administrative oversight and regular duties, the impotence of public resources, the arrogance and disconnection in the presidential office, and endless fighting among politicians. People have become skeptical, discontent, lost and divided. Yet there is no sign of hope from leadership to pull the country out of this crisis.
President Park Geun-hye has raised grave questions about her leadership through her appointments in reshuffling the government. Two nominees for prime minister and another two for cabinet ministerial offices had to bow out over ethical concerns. Her slogan to rebuild the country has been seriously undermined before the new government was even launched. Park called off the appointment of Kim Myung-soo as the deputy prime minister for social affairs and education minister amid heavy criticism over plagiarism and illegal stock trading.
But she was intent on keeping another highly controversial candidate, Chung Sung-keun, as her culture minister, although he obviously was disqualified after committing perjury during the confirmation hearing. When the president gave back the nomination to Chung, which was rejected initially, the legislature strongly protested. Her dithering over controversial candidates only wasted valuable resources and time and underscored her weaknesses in power. The government strangely announced the approval of the remaining five ministers a day after the president gave them certificates for their new offices. We just hope the reshuffled government will finally get its act together and get real work done.
At the same time, the president and government must try their best to connect with the people, as public backing is essential to rebuild the foundation for a reliable country. Families of the Sewol victims and Danwon High School students have been protesting on the streets demanding the enactment of a special law on the Sewol ferry. Their rage and impatience are understandable. But a special law needs more thorough study to incorporate broader social consensus. The demand to empower the investigation committee with authority to probe and indict could undermine law enforcement order. A special prosecution law should come first in order to realign investigative and indictment authority.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 17, Page 30