The red light is on
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
The atmosphere in the Blue House has been quite cold as of late. There are rumors that the president is serving up scoldings over briefings. Ministers and secretaries are being extra careful. Many say that they get nervous when their red light activates on the phone, signaling an incoming call from the president. With the red light comes a president demanding results. I understand how the chief executive must feel frustrated: key policies are stalled, and his approval rating has falling for two months straight — and some public servants are facing ethical questions.
The red light is on across the country. Civil servants must be disciplined. The problem is that urging the civil servants won’t resolve challenging tasks like the unemployment crisis, the nuclear phase-out and the Korea-U.S. alliance. Flexible work is one of them. The policy has lost direction because of opposition from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). The first agreement was barely reached by the ruling party, the opposition and the government at a meeting presided over by the president. The opposition party claimed that the Blue House was hindering the process, and the KCTU assembly at National Assembly this weekend. But the Blue House is watching the situation without intervening.
Blaming the opposition party and the National Assembly has become a routine. Recently, the National Assembly was told to fulfill the basic duties it was given. The subject in question was the appointment hearing report of the Constitutional Court justice, and the opposition party was targeted, while the National Assembly was mentioned. But the opposition party wasn’t solely responsible. The ruling and opposition parties were late to make recommendation, and the candidate recommended by the Minjoo Party did not pass the appointment standards of the Moon administration for public service. The Blue House claims that whenever a minister opposed by the National Assembly is appointed, the opposition party cannot be considered to represent public opinion.
The Blue House goes easy on the KCTU and can openly disregard the opposition parties because the Yeouido politicians have little popularity and presence. A survey shows that people are more distrustful of politicians than strangers. But what we need to remember is that the fall of presidents due to the “sophomore jinx” began from here. The same happened to the impeached former president. In the third year of her term, she issued a statement condemning the National Assembly and participated in a signature drive advocating controversial bills led by economic organizations.
When Park Geun-hye spoke nonsense, ignored the National Assembly and pushed for a unilateral agenda, then opposition leader Moon Jae-in called for talks and concessions to reach a compromise. What he asked then remains the same. But historically, the Blue House attacked the National Assembly and treated the opposition party like an enemy in the second year of the term without an exception. And it comments on the lack of politics as if it only applies to others. It is hard to understand, but this practice is endlessly repeated.
President Moon continuously promotes policies from the citizens’ perspective and listens to voices in the field. He is very right. The administrative philosophy of the ruling party may be adjusted with flexible judgement if it does not suit the reality. Among the campaign promises, some need to be pushed while others may require modification to reflect the voices from the field. It is not what civil servants can do: only the president and the Blue House can do the job, especially putting the brakes on the KCTU pledging to encamp around the National Assembly.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 29, Page 34