Lack of vision for tomorrowAhn Cheol-soo, heading the transition committee for President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, claimed that the committee has been most hard-working. He pointed to the committee’s proposals to stop providing official residences for local government heads, simplify our age system to global standards and extend loan maturity for a number of small merchants hurt by the government’s virus mitigation measures.
But outside appraisal of the transition committee is quite different. The committee should have designed the outline for the governance of the incoming administration for the next five years through rigorous discussions. But it is unclear what kind of visions the new government has. Some even claim the transition committee’s performance is the worst.
The sole striking event was its proposal to relocate the presidential office to the Ministry of National Defense compound in Yongsan. The fundamental activities of the transition committee have been overshadowed by the disagreements between Yoon and Ahn over the nomination of Yoon’s first cabinet members. Lee Tae-kyu aligned to Ahn resigned, while Ahn boycotted his job as transition committee chair to protest the discord. The difference was hurriedly patched. But the ongoing conflict over the ruling Democratic Party’s (DP) submission of bills aimed at stripping the prosecution of its investigation authority overwhelmed the transition committee activities.
Nominees as Cabinet members also raised controversy. Chung Ho-young nominated to head the Ministry of Health and Welfare is embroiled over alleged favoritism related to his son’s admission into a prestigious medical school and military service while Chung headed the hospital of a national university. Even the transition committee is complaining about his nomination.
The DP that commands a super majority in the National Assembly poses as the biggest threat to the transition committee. The committee said it will first seek policies possible through administrative executive orders instead of new legislation. But how the new government can navigate multiple challenges is uncertain — such as high inflation and interest rates, real estate policy, compensation for merchants damaged by Covid-19, labor and pension reforms and the college entrance system.
Confirmation hearings for the ministerial posts will start next week. The legislature is at odds over the controversial bill on prosecution reform. The transition committee must stand tough to realize Yoon’s promise to create a “working government.” Ahn vowed to set the agenda for public announcement in early May. The committee must present a clear vision to better the lives of the people as it promised.