President may tap opposition for cabinet seat

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President may tap opposition for cabinet seat

President Moon Jae-in plans to nominate opposition figures to his cabinet to encourage multiparty support for his agenda, the president’s spokesman said on Monday. The power-sharing proposal may apply to the administration’s nomination of a new agriculture minister this week, or to a major cabinet reshuffle that may happen as early as next month.

Kim Eui-kyeom, the Blue House spokesman, said in a press briefing on Monday that the president is “willing to form a ‘collaborative cabinet’ which includes [opposition] figures deemed appropriate,” adding that the request was first broached by lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party (DP) in the interest of getting legislative support from the opposition.

“We can no longer delay nominating a new minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs due to measures needed to address food safety concerns over the summer season,” a Blue House official said Monday on the condition of anonymity. “The concept of collaboration is being carefully considered in regard to this and other cabinet appointments for the sake of gaining multiparty support for economic and social reform.”

The post of agriculture minister has been empty since March after former Minister Kim Yung-rok resigned to run for governor of South Jeolla in the June 13 local elections. Kim was elected governor but a nomination of his successor has been delayed for four months due to a month-and-half long impasse in the National Assembly over distribution of the legislature’s standing committees for the second half of the legislature’s four-year term.

The parties finally agreed to normalize parliament on July 13, and Moon Hee-sang, a six-term DP representative, was elected speaker. In his inaugural address, speaker Moon pointed his finger at a Manichean “binary political mentality” as the source of legislative gridlock over the past years and stressed the importance of interparty collaboration, saying the DP should consider agreeing to appoint an able opposition figure as a cabinet member.

Though it holds a plurality in the legislature with 130 seats, the DP lacks the majority needed to push through the administration’s agenda and has struggled to get support from opposition parties.

It now has the opportunity to appease other parties by offering them posts that may open up with a major cabinet reshuffle expected to follow next month, according to sources inside the DP. These could include the posts of environment, gender equality, labor or trade ministers. Talk about including lawmakers from the broader progressive camp, which includes the Party for Democracy and Peace and Justice Party, into the cabinet have been circulating for months, and now from the conservative opposition.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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