Frontal clash should be avoided

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Frontal clash should be avoided

The author is the political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

It is the second time that President Moon Jae-in attended the banquet for the president and the president-elect. In December 2007, at the end of the Roh Moo-hyun administration, Moon, then Roh’s chief of staff, accompanied the president and his spokesperson to meet president-elect Lee Myung-bak for two hours and 10 minutes at the Blue House.

Fourteen years and three months later, President Moon met President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol on March 28. The meeting was 41 minutes longer than the first one, but the general setup of getting together with the opposition president-elect was similar to that of 2007. Since the constitutional revision to allow the direct presidential election system in 1987, the Democratic Party has transferred power twice. President Moon is the only person who attended both meetings at the Blue House.

The two meetings, 15 years apart, also had similar briefings, which focused on the “congenial mood.” At the 2007 meeting, President Roh Moo-hyun said, “In my heart, the president-elect is the senior,” and Lee Myung-bak said, “I will respect President Roh as my predecessor.” As the president-elect demanded the ruling party ratify the Korea-U.S. FTA before Roh stepped down, the outgoing president responded that he would do his best.

After the banquet on Monday, President-elect Yoon’s chief of staff Chang Je-won said, “They had friendly talks, and discord was nowhere to be found. They had heart-to-heart conversations.” On sensitive issues such as the relocation of the presidential office to Yongsan, President Moon said he would carefully review the budget and cooperate. The difference is that although the Blue House and the president-elect gave briefings to the press in 2007, only the office of the president-elect did it this time.

The friendly atmosphere at the first meeting 15 years ago changed completely at another meeting held at the Blue House in February 2008. After president-elect Lee demanded the government promulgate a revision to the government organization act focused on the abolitions of four ministries — the Ministry of Unification, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries — discords exploded after Lee took issue with the transfer of former President Roh’s records.

Despite the explanation by the office of President-elect Yoon that they had a “heart-to-heart conversation,” I am uneasy because of the memories from 15 years ago. The incoming and outgoing powers already clashed over Moon’s rush to appoint top positions in the government before he steps down, not to mention conflict over the relocation of the presidential office to Yongsan. With only 39 days left before the inauguration of Yoon’s administration, I don’t want to see any more frontal clashes.
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