A yawn of a reshuffle

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A yawn of a reshuffle

President Park Geun-hye’s reshuffle of her cabinet Tuesday fell short of our expectations. Her decision to limit the replacements to a minimal level is understandable given her earlier vow not to reshuffle merely for political reasons. Nevertheless, it does not behoove a responsible head of state to ignore the public outrage reflected in the poor performance of the ruling party in April’s general election. A more robust reshuffle was called for.

Considering that it could be the last reshuffle of her administration, people had high expectations for balanced appointments given her track record of appointments mostly focused on a particular region and her loyalists. In fact, such lopsided appointments in the past helped fuel national division whenever President Park resorted to a small pool of talent instead of a large group of candidates that could meet the people’s growing demands.

But the request by the newly-elected chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party Lee Jung-hyun for a more balanced reshuffle in terms of region and gender was not heeded. The president also ignored the growing public calls for the resignation of Woo Byung-woo, a senior civil affairs secretary embroiled in a bribery scandal.

Park appears to be trying to avoid a lame duck period by relying solely on her confidantes. The appointment of Cho Yoon-sun — the former senior presidential secretary for political affairs who failed to win a nomination in a party primary before the April general election — as minister of culture, sports and tourism is a typical example of such revolving-door appointments. In June’s revamp of her senior staff at the Blue House, Park reinforced the power of the so-called pro-Park faction by picking from her inner circle. These were errors.

Coupled with economic and security crises and lax work ethics in officialdom, the nation is at a crossroads. People are increasingly concerned about her diplomatic and security teams’ incompetence in the lead-up to the decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system in Korea, not to mention public outrage over senior prosecutors’ bribery scandals.

Despite Park’s rosy slogans in the last presidential election, her accomplishments seem to be diminishing. The same applies to the labor reform and economic restructuring so ambitiously pursued by the administration after its launch four years back. Where are they now?

Park must deliver a message of unity. She does not represent her loyalists alone but the people. It’s time to show it.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 17, Page 30

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