Both Moon and Yoon want to fill empty top posts
A first meeting between President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol on Wednesday was canceled at the last minute, with both sides saying prep work for the meeting hadn't been completed.
It later came out that the Blue House and Yoon's transition team are clashing over appointments to public institutions, with some key posts opening up before Moon leaves office on May 9.
"It is not right to argue over the president's right to personnel appointments," Park Soo-hyun, senior secretary for public communication, told MBC radio Thursday.
Park stressed the president has the exclusive right to make personnel appointments until his term ends.
Yoon's side reportedly wants to get involved in some appointments, such as the next head of the Bank of Korea (BOK). BOK Gov. Lee Ju-yeol's second term expires at the end of this month. Senior posts at the National Election Commission and Board of Audit and Inspection are also opening up before May 9.
Park brushed off media reports that the Blue House decided to allow Yoon to nominate the next BOK governor, calling them "not true."
"President Moon Jae-in's term runs until May 9, so who else would have the right to personnel appointments?" said Park. "It's only common sense."
Yun Ho-jung, interim head of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), said in an interview with KBS radio on the canceled meeting between Moon and Yoon, "I am aware that there was great disrespect on the president-elect's side in the preparatory consultation process."
He added, "I believed it was canceled because of the way [Yoon's team] was acting like an occupying force."
Yun said in a MBC radio interview later Thursday morning, "It is extremely unreasonable to ask the president not to exercise his right to personnel appointments, as it is the same as ordering him to violate the current law."
From the other side, Kim Gi-hyeon, floor leader of the main opposition People's Power Party (PPP), accused the Moon administration of "parachute appointments," accusing it of giving plum jobs to loyalists to the very end.
In a PPP supreme council meeting at the National Assembly Thursday, Kim said, "It is very unusual to see an administration that is focused on taking care of its own people until the very end."
He added, "The people have chosen a new president, so obviously someone who will implement the new president's approach to government should be appointed to head public institutions."
The two sides are also colliding over the issue of special pardons and Yoon's plans to transform and slim down the Blue House.
The president-elect's spokesperson indicated Tuesday that Yoon was expected to ask for a special pardon for former President Lee Myung-bak in the planned meeting with Moon Wednesday.
Some PPP lawmakers speculated that Moon would want a package deal so that former South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyung-soo may also be granted a special pardon alongside Lee. Kim, a close aide to Moon, was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiring to manipulate online opinion ahead of the 2017 presidential election.
The first meeting between the president and the president-elect is usually supposed to be light in atmosphere, an occasion for the incumbent head of state to offer congratulations to his successor. However, the proposed agenda this time around included politically sensitive issues.
PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok wrote on Facebook Thursday, "In a democratic country, a presidential transition is a process of the transfer of power, and the former administration has an obligation to cooperate with the establishment of the succeeding government."
Both the Blue House and the transition team said that the meeting is being rescheduled and have officially refrained from any outright insults.
Kim Eun-hye, Yoon's spokesperson, said in a briefing Thursday regarding the canceled meeting with Moon that there is "close and continuous communication and coordination" to reschedule it.
The president and president-elect had tensions from Yoon's days as Moon's hand-chosen prosecutor general. Their relations curdled after Yoon sanctioned a probe into former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family. Yoon also protested the Moon administration's plans to weaken prosecutorial powers.
Yoon, appointed by Moon to the position in July 2019, resigned as prosecutor general in March 2021 with four months left in his two-year tenure. In June, he announced his presidential bid.
Moon and Yoon publicly clashed last month after the PPP presidential nominee said in an interview that he would launch a probe into alleged corruption of the current administration if elected.
In a rare direct response to a candidate during a campaign, Moon expressed "strong resentment" over Yoon's remarks and demanded an apology.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]