Korea needs a ‘bad minister’ (국문)

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Korea needs a ‘bad minister’ (국문)

Abraham Lincoln had the most unique cabinet in U.S. history. When he was elected the 16th President of the United States, he embraced not only Republican rivals that criticized him in the primary but also political enemies in the Democratic Party.

The most surprising decision was choosing Democrat Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War. Stanton called Lincoln “baboon.” Rather than a “yes man,” Stanton was a “bad secretary.” When Lincoln ordered him to move soldiers, Stanton refused to comply and said Lincoln was a fool for giving such an order.

When Lincoln heard Stanton’s explanation, he acknowledged that he was wrong and retracted the order. Lincoln and Stanton were a good team and led the Civil War to the Union’s victory. Historian Doris Goodwin called Lincoln’s cabinet “a team of rivals.” Lincoln employed the best of the best, using them as checks on each other’s power, and in this way he kept the team effective.

President Moon Jae-in promised fair appointments, and he has made a great start. Meetings are no longer about formalities, and it was refreshing to see the President and his staff take a walk while drinking coffee. He promoted former culture, sports and tourism ministry official Roh Tae-gang as deputy minister after Park Geun-hye called him “a bad person” and dismissed him. However, it hasn’t been easy to fill his cabinet due to the opposition’s protests. They did not allow the president to keep his promise to employ capable figures, and the principle to exclude people that committed five wrongdoings from public office was hard to keep.

The cabinet is mostly filled with graduates of top universities, previous workers for civil groups or members of the ruling Minjoo Party. Ten of 17 cabinet members, including Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon, are graduates of the top three universities. 15 worked for President Moon’s campaign or civil groups. It is ironic that the administration champions unity and advocates to end academic favoritism.

The Lee Myung-bak administration included graduates of Korea University, members of Somang Church and natives of South Gyeongsang Province. The Park Geun-hye administration preferred graduates of Gyeonggi High School and Sungkyunkwan University and those who passed national examinations.

President Moon has “pardoned” those guilty of plagiarism, DUIs or using fake addresses in the confirmation hearing. Structurally, no one would say such a decision is foolish. The Moon administration is pushing for a nuclear phase out, abolishment of bonuses for civil servants, improvement of irregular employment and standardized education.

President Lincoln is revered because he listened to tough advice as he worked for the nation and the people. Korea also needs a “bad minister.” Who will it be?

JoongAng Ilbo, July 17, Page 31

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


에이브러햄 링컨은 미국 역사상 가장 독특한 내각의 주인이었다. 16대 대통령에 당선되자 경선 과정에서 자신을 헐뜯었던 공화당 내 라이벌은 물론 민주당 정적까지 포용했다. 놀라운 건 링컨을 ‘얼간이’ ‘긴팔원숭이’라고 모독한 민주당의 에드윈 스탠턴을 전쟁장관에 기용한 일이었다. 스탠턴은 ‘예스맨’이 되기는커녕 ‘나쁜 장관’이 됐다. 링컨이 군부대 이동 명령을 내리자 “잘 알지도 못하고 내린 바보의 명령”이라며 거부했다.
그러자 링컨은 스탠턴에게 직접 설명을 들은 뒤 자신의 판단 착오였음을 인정하고 명령을 철회했다. 찰떡궁합이 된 둘은 남북전쟁을 승리로 이끌었다. 역사학자 도리스 굿윈은 『권력의 조건』에서 링컨의 탕평 내각을 ‘라이벌 팀(Team of Rivals)’이라고 했다. 적임자 원칙으로 긴장과 견제, 소통과 통합을 일궜다는 것이다.
문재인 대통령도 여러 번 탕평을 약속했다. 출발은 괜찮았다. 격식 없는 회의와 테이크아웃 커피 산책의 ‘감성 정치’는 신선했다. 박근혜 정부 때 ‘참 나쁜 사람’으로 찍혀 쫓겨난 노태강 전 문화체육관광부 국장을 차관에 발탁하는 파격도 선보였다. 그런데 조각(組閣)이 꼬였다. “유능한 인재의 삼고초려 기용” 약속은 허망해졌고, 공직 배제 5대 원칙은 내상을 입었다.
빚은 국민에게 졌는데 엉뚱한 데다 빚잔치를 하다 보니 ‘유시민(유명 대학·시민단체·민주당)’ 내각이 됐다. 이낙연 국무총리를 포함한 17명의 국무위원(후보자 포함) 중 ‘SKY’ 출신이 10명, 대선 캠프나 시민단체 출신이 15명이나 된다. 학벌 타파와 통합을 외친 정부의 아이러니다. 이명박 정부의 ‘고소영(고려대·소망교회·영남)’, 박근혜 정부의 ‘성시경(성균관대·고시·경기고)’과 다를 바 없다.
문 대통령은 국회 청문회 과정에서 표절·음주운전·위장전입 등 숱한 흠결이 드러난 이들에게 ‘성은’을 베풀고 있다. “바보 같은 결정”이라고 자리를 걸고 직언할 인사가 나오기 힘든 구조다. 탈원전과 공무원 성과급 폐기, 비정규직 문제, 평둔화(平鈍化) 교육 등 ‘원 웨이’ 정책이 그 징후다. 링컨이 추앙받는 건 ‘X맨’의 쓴소리를 영양제 삼으며 국가와 국민만 생각한 덕분이다. 우리도 ‘나쁜 장관’이 절실하다. 누가 그 역할을 할 것인가.

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