It’s Yoon’s time now
The author is the chief editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
After an election, the president-elect must take the spotlight and the loser must respect the time of the winner to communicate with the people and complete his vision and policy. But outgoing President Moon Jae-in is remaining stubbornly on the stage, singing a different song from President-election Yoon Suk-yeol. The two sides confronted one another over the proposed relocation of the presidential office to Yongsan and the appointment of the Bank of Korea governor and a member of the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI). Now, they are attacking each other’s spouses.
As the rising power five years ago, Moon opposed the appointments by acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn in the final weeks of the conservative administration. Now Moon’s presidency is about to end, but he is making appointments to key posts, prompting opposition from Yoon’s transition committee. The country is being divided instead of achieving unity after the presidential election.
During the election, ruling Democratic Party (DP) candidate Lee Jae-myung was better at debates, and the public noted his abilities. His opponent Yoon was a political rookie who once served the Moon administration and was recruited by the opposition People Power Party (PPP), which was ruined by the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. Lee was supposed to win the election, but he lost because of the failure of the Moon administration. The majority of the public turned against the DP mostly due to Moon’s decision to defend controversial justice minister Cho Kuk, skyrocketing housing prices and excessive property taxes. Lee fought well, but could not reverse the public demand to change the governing power and suffered a narrow defeat.
After the people handed down a cold judgment, Moon must cooperate in the transition of power. It is the responsibility of the president. “I will do my best during the rest of my term and return to nature and live a life as a forgotten, free man,” said Moon. But he is actually fighting against the president-elect. Is he trying to remain as the commander of his political faction, not the former president?
The DP’s behaviors are hard to understand. It must look back on its failure and vow to reform after losing an election. But Chairman Song Young-gil, responsible for the defeat, declared he will run for mayor in the next election. Song also urged political leaders in their 50s — mostly former student activists in the 1980s — to retire from politics. But he did not do it himself. His unjustified action is now triggering protests en masse from his own party members.
Rep. Yoon Ho-jung, who served as floor leader during the election, now serves as head of the emergency committee of the party. Rumors spread that Lee Jae-myung will soon be returning to politics. If the June 1 local elections become an overtime match of the presidential election, political war will become a part of our daily lives.
After losing the 1992 presidential election to Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung left politics without hesitation and left for Britain. Without his rival’s presence, President Kim Young-sam pushed strong reform measures forward, such as dismantling the military fraternity Hanahoe and introducing the real-name financial transaction system. At the early days of his presidency, Kim enjoyed an 83-percent approval rating. Voters in the Honam region — the traditional base for Kim Dae-jung — overwhelmingly backed President Kim Young-sam.
When Kim Dae-jung returned to politics in 1995 and made his fourth run in the 1997 presidential election, President Kim Young-sam decided to postpone the prosecution’s probe into the allegations that Kim Dae-jung had operated slush funds. The president removed the critical obstacle for his opponent. The two Kims had their meeting two days after Kim Dae-jung won the Dec. 18, 1997 presidential election against Lee Hoe-chang from the ruling party. Since then, the two Kims have held a weekly luncheon.
Three days after their first meeting, the two leaders each named six members of a 12-member emergency economic committee to tackle the Asian financial crisis of that year. The incumbent deputy prime minister for economic affairs, foreign minister, trade minister, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, administrative coordination chief and the governor of the Bank of Korea were members of the Kim Young-sam administration.
The emergency economic committee was set up even before the transition team of Kim Dae-jung was formed. Through this committee, President-elect Kim Dae-jung was able to stop national bankruptcy amid the unprecedented financial crisis.
Kim Dae-jung’s transition team and the Kim Young-sam administration’s Finance Ministry jointly worked on creating a supplementary budget bill. President Kim Young-sam largely cooperated with President-elect Kim Dae-jung so that he can practically exercise the power of the president. It was the best model of transition.
It is the time to prepare for Yoon’s presidency. Outgoing President Moon must step down from the stage. The DP must also resist the temptation to turn the upcoming local elections into an extension of the presidential race. If the party ends the politics of confrontation, the people will praise it. Then, the winner can also show magnanimity and start a politics of cooperation. Now is the time for Yoon. As an opposition with a super majority in the National Assembly after Yoon is sworn in as president, the DP can criticize and hold his administration in check. But first, the DP must give Yoon the time to work as the president-elect.