Moon back on job after break in his hometownPresident Moon Jae-in on Sunday returned to the Blue House after taking a two-day vacation in his hometown of Yangsan, South Gyeongsang, and he has a busy agenda ahead of him.
Moon took off on Friday after a five-day trip to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, where he gave an address calling for a declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
The presidential office released photos of the president enjoying his time off, hiking a mountain, staring at a reservoir and picking mushrooms. His love for the city of 350,000 is well known. In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo in 2016, when Moon was a lawmaker preparing to run for president for the second time, he said every time he visited the city to relax, he felt the urge to stay and not return to Yeouido, home to the National Assembly in Seoul.
Moon will preside over a senior secretariat meeting today at which he is expected to describe the past two weeks of diplomacy, which included a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang and a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in New York.
At the meeting, he is also likely to reiterate his call on the National Assembly to ratify the Panmunjom Declaration, the product of his first summit with North Korean leader Kim on April 27 in the border village in the hope of accelerating momentum to bring Pyongyang and Washington closer together.
But the prospect of the opposition, especially the major opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) with 112 lawmakers in the legislature, supporting the motion is slim, especially with an expected showdown between LKP Rep. Shim Jae-cheol and Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon at a parliamentary audit Tuesday.
Rep. Shim, a journalist-turned-lawmaker who has served five terms, has been attacking the Moon administration over the past week, raising allegations that the Blue House misappropriated 245 million won ($220,000) in operational expenses from May 2017 through last month. He accuses the Blue House of using the money partly to drink in bars.
“Under the government’s budgetary and spending guidelines, use of operational expenses [by public officials] during irregular hours that are past 11 p.m. and on national holidays and weekends is prohibited in principle,” the former journalist said in a press release on Friday.
The Blue House denied the allegations and said Shim did not even check the basic facts about the guidelines. It said that spending past regular working hours and on weekends is permitted as long as government officials explain the reasons for the spending.
Shim’s revelation came amidst a prosecutorial investigation into an allegation that his own aides illegally accessed and leaked digital files containing budgets and confidential state statistics from a finance website run by the Korea Public Finance Information Service.
Accusing Shim of distributing unauthorized information, the Economy and Finance Ministry recommended the five-term lawmaker be investigated by the prosecution.
The LKP criticized the government in an emergency meeting Friday, saying it was a “blatant act of suppression against the opposition” during an audit week to “incapacitate” the party.
Another issue looming is the appointment of Rep. Yoo Eun-hye of the ruling Democratic Party as education minister. The opposition expressed its opposition to her appointment following a parliamentary confirmation hearing. But Moon is expected to go head with the nomination as parliamentary approval is not required for most cabinet appointments, which will provoke an LKP backlash and raise the prospects of parliamentary gridlock.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [email@example.com]