Moon courts catastrophe

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Moon courts catastrophe

President Moon Jae-in must have disappointed a lot of people by appointing Cho Kuk to justice minister after weeks of blaring headlines and genuinely alarming allegations about his relatives. By sticking to an exclusive inner group, the Moon administration has isolated itself. Expectations for the fairness and justice Moon promised have been shattered. Koreans are in a state of disbelief and hopelessness just three years after they took to the streets to protest corruption at the highest levels of power. Moon promised “a country that has never been experienced.” Unfortunately, what he delivered is very familiar indeed. And it smells pretty bad.

In a televised briefing to announce Cho’s formal appointment, Moon said “the more reform-minded a candidate, the more he or she faces a tough time in confirmation hearings.” His comment suggests he believes that anyone against Cho is against his reform drive. He claimed he thought hard over Cho’s appointment “upon seeing the public divide.”

But he went ahead with the appointment in fear of “leaving a bad precedent by disavowing someone just on suspicions as the person in question has not been convicted of any illegalities.” So many candidates to senior government offices have resigned over ethical questions — without being convicted of anything. Moon and others in the ruling party made sure of it when they were in the opposition. Cho’s wife has actually been indicted on multiple counts including the serious crimes of forgery and evidence destruction. How the president and ruling party can go ahead with such an appointment shocks the people.

Some Moon critics may actually be happy with the decision — hoping it will lead to catastrophe. The legislature is bound to become dysfunctional. The opposition will demand probes of Cho. Reforms will become unlikely as any legal revision requires opposition cooperation. The president could become a lame-duck even with two years left in his term. Many hoped Moon would avoid such a fate.

There is no upside for the country. North Korea has been liberally firing missiles into the East Sea. Seoul-Washington ties have never been so strained. The trade front is uncertain due to protracted tensions between the U.S. and China. Our relationship with Japan is at its worst point since the restoration of diplomatic ties. The economy is sinking fast.

Yet the governing power cannot be trusted. It sticks to its path of doom, but the people won’t sit idly and go down with it. No power can be sustained if it angers the people. It is bound to pay a dear price.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 10, Page 30
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