Inappropriate recruitmentThe Blue House’s appointment last week of Park Won-joo, head of the Korean Intellectual Property Office, as senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, is very inappropriate. We don’t find fault with the presidential office’s recruitment of an official from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy — instead of from the Ministry of Strategy and Finance as in the past. Given urgent issues such as a shortage of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) from China’s export restrictions, problems with global supply networks for semiconductors and the pressing issue of achieving carbon neutrality, his appointment could be appropriate.
But Park is being investigated as a suspect in the case of the energy ministry allegedly having manipulated the results of economic feasibility study on the Wolseong 1 reactor in line with President Moon Jae-in’s nuclear phase-out policy. His name appears 16 times in an earlier indictment of Energy Minister Paik Un-gyu and other two senior ministry officials. Park as a close aide to Paik not only relayed the minister’s instructions to junior officials but also orchestrated a roadmap to a nuclear phase-out, including the early shutdown of the Wolseong 1 reactor.
In April 2018, when the head of the nuclear industry policy division at the energy ministry conveyed the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corp. (KHNP)’s support of the economic feasibility of the reactor, Park reportedly lambasted him for resisting the government’s direction. After the division head mentioned the need to operate the reactor at least for two and half more years, Park threatened him to present a new report on the economic feasibility of the reactor.
But Park was not indicted even after his boss Paik and the division head had been indicted for abuse of power. After Park’s promotion as the senior presidential secretary, the prosecution could interpret it as some guidelines on its investigation into Park’s involvement in the case.
Nuclear phase-out is not a political issue but an issue that calls for a scientific debate. We wonder why Cheong Seung-il, president of the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), points out the need to “reconsider the nuclear phase-out if public consensus is established,” though belatedly. Even the president of the KHNP now stresses the need to resume the operation of nuclear power plants after standing at the forefront of a crusade to wean Korea off nuclear energy. It does not make sense for the government to press ahead with the nuclear phase-out by fabricating related data.
Moon’s appointment of Park as his top economic aide constitutes a brazen disrespect for law. The government must stop its nuclear phase-out push.