War of words continues between Moon, Yoon
Yoon's spokesperson, in turn, expressed "extreme regret" at Moon's remarks with their implication that the president-elect had trouble making his own decisions.
Park Soo-hyun, presidential senior secretary for public communication, said Moon vented his "frustration" in a meeting with aides Thursday morning about not having gotten together with Yoon.
"I am an outgoing president and President-elect Yoon is an incoming president," Moon was quoted as saying by Park. "What kind of negotiation is necessary for two people to greet each other and exchange blessings and words of advice?"
Moon and Yoon have yet to hold a first meeting, although one was scheduled for last week and cancelled at the last minute. On March 10, they had a congratulatory phone call immediately after Yoon's presidential election victory.
Moon continued, according to Park, "I've never heard of a president-elect requiring conditions to pay a visit to the president. I hope the president-elect will make a decision on his own instead of listening to what others say."
During the presidential campaign, Yoon was criticized for relying on overly powerful aides. At one point, his campaign was overhauled to remove most of these aides from the election campaign committee.
In response, Kim Eun-hye, Yoon's spokesperson, said in a briefing Thursday afternoon, "It is extremely regrettable that President-elect Yoon's decision-making skills were mentioned as if there was a problem with them, suggesting that his judgment had been clouded by his advisers."
She added, "When a government transition is not going smoothly, it is difficult to easily agree to a meeting between the two as a 'place to exchange blessings' at a time when it is critical to respond to Covid-19 and the economic crisis."
Kim addressed the issue of appointments to major government posts opening up, a major point of contention between the outgoing and incoming presidents, saying, "The people who are appointed now are those who will work with the new president, not the outgoing one."
She said that when the next president is elected, Yoon does not plan to make end-of-term appointments.
"After a presidential election, it is customary to halt personnel appointments as much as possible and cooperate so that the new government can begin state affairs with new personnel," said Kim.
The luncheon meeting scheduled for March 15 between Moon and Yoon was cancelled just four hours before it was to start because of disagreements over Moon's desire to fill major government positions opening up and a special pardon for former President Lee Myung-bak.
It was unprecedented for a first meeting between the president and the president-elect to be cancelled so abruptly.
Despite both sides claiming they simply needed more time to prepare, a new meeting has not been rescheduled. They have also clashed over Yoon's plans to relocate the presidential office to the Defense Ministry compound in Yongsan.
On Wednesday, Moon nominated Rhee Chang-yong, director of the Asia and Pacific department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as the new Bank of Korea (BOK) chief.
The Blue House claimed to have consulted Yoon's transition team ahead of the nomination, and said the choice of Rhee was a reconciliatory gesture to the president-elect.
But Yoon's chief of staff, Chang Je-won, refuted this claim to reporters later Wednesday, saying they were not properly consulted and only received a phone call from a Blue House official 10 minutes before the unilateral announcement.
Chang said he told a Blue House official during this phone call, "Do what you want," stressing Yoon's team hadn't reviewed or endorsed the appointment.
A senior Blue House official told reporters Wednesday they were "dismayed" by the transition team's response and said that Yoon's team had previously selected Rhee when asked to choose between two candidates for BOK chief.
Yoon's team has spoken out against the outgoing president making end-of-term appointments, with senior posts at the Board of Audit and Inspection's (BAI) audit committee and National Election Commission (NEC) up for appointments. Currently, two of the seven audit committee member posts are vacant.
"Personnel appointments are the responsibility of the president until the end of the president's term of office," a senior Blue House official told reporters Thursday. "It is not only a legal right, but also an obligation."
"A meeting between the president and the president-elect should be a pleasant affair," said the official. "And seeing the president and the president-elect just meet and shake hands with bright faces should be an event that brings smiles to the faces of the public."
Yoon also criticized Moon's BOK governor appointment speaking to reporters at his transition office in Tongui-dong, central Seoul, Thursday morning.
"I don't think it's desirable to put the previous [president] in charge of personnel appointments for the next government, whom they will have to work with for many years," said Yoon.
But Yoon said personnel appointments were a "separate matter" from a meeting with President Moon.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]