First things first

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First things first

The top priority for the interim government of Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn is determining the scope of his authority as acting president after the National Assembly’s impeachment last Friday of President Park Geun-hye over the Choi Soon-sil scandal. Korea is at a critical juncture after the shocking scandal. The economy is nearly on the brink of collapse due to alarming signs on investment, exports and employment, not to mention such urgent tasks as a restructuring of the embattled shipping and shipbuilding sectors, as well as deep concerns about national security with the absence of a commander in chief.

When Prime Minister Goh Kun took over the government after the impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004, he carried out a minimum of presidential duties after taking into account the growing possibility that Roh would be acquitted of criminal charges by the Constitutional Court. Goh helped ease economic woes by handing economic matters over to Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Lee Hun-jai.

But the possibility of President Park returning to her job is extremely slim and it could take as long as 180 days for the highest court to deliver its final ruling on the constitutionality of her abuse of power. Considering all the clouds hanging over Korea, interim leader Hwang cannot afford to repeat what his predecessor did.

Hwang will most likely face trouble efficiently running the government if he does not fix the scope of his jurisdiction through consultations with the National Assembly. The opposition contends that sensitive issues — such as adopting a revised history textbook, signing the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan, and the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile battery — are beyond Hwang’s control.

Hwang and politicians should discuss and agree on the scope of his power through a tripartite consultative body among the government, ruling and opposition parties. We hope that Hwang is well aware of his role as leader of an interim government and makes clear an intention to run the government through consultations with the legislature.

In particular, the opposition must allow him to determine the fate of Thaad and GSOMIA, as a reversal of international accords will surely damage our national interest. The opposition also needs to respect Hwang’s rights to appoint senior government officials as it falls under the administration’s jurisdiction.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 13, Page 30

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