The door revolvesPresident Moon Jae-in met with ruling Democratic Party (DP) leader Lee Nak-yon over the weekend. On Monday, he held a luncheon with Prime Minster Chung Sye-kyun at the Blue House. Though details of the meetings have not been released, they certainly reached some kind of agreement on how to revamp the cabinet for Moon to smoothly run the government through the remainder of his term.
DP lawmakers expect Moon to accept Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae’s offer to resign after taking responsibility for all the chaos she has created with her war on Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl. Party insiders anticipate Moon to replace his chief of staff Noh Young-min, other presidential aides and some government ministers with new faces by mid-January at the latest. Actually, such replacements are overdue given the justice minister’s relentless campaign to oust the top prosecutor and the government’s failure to secure Covid-19 vaccines early and calm the overheated real estate market. Nevertheless, better late than never.
However, we don’t think we can look forward to an administrative reinvention when we consider the background of candidates for positions. For instance, Moon’s chief of staff will likely be replaced with one of the core members of the pro-Moon group. Noh reportedly offered to resign after taking responsibility for a series of wrong recommendations, policy blunders and the controversy over the top prosecutor. Noh’s successor must not repeat such mistakes if the government really wants to address the plethora of challenges it faces.
The Blue House must be extra careful in selecting the outgoing justice minister’s successor as her drive for prosecution reforms went nowhere after she was engrossed with ousting Yoon in the name of reshaping the top law enforcement agency. Her replacement will have to put a divided prosecution back together. And yet, hard-line candidates with strong hostilities toward prosecutors and with close ties to Moon loyalists are being mentioned as her replacement. Moon is also poised to appoint Byeon Chang-heum, the controversial nominee for land minister, regardless of his countless disqualifications.
Moon’s close associates predicted the president will appoint core allies to top government posts until his term expires in May 2022. If that’s true, the president’s recruitment style has not changed at all despite all the appointment fiascoes. Moon has been repeating what the previous conservative government did — one revolving-door appointment after another — which he denounced.
If a cabinet reshuffle is to succeed, a president must open his eyes to find appropriate people with knowledge, experience and common sense. We hope Moon recruits such talent before he steps down.