Heavy is the head with Korea’s crown

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Heavy is the head with Korea’s crown

Kim Hyun-ki
The author is the Tokyo bureau chief and rotating correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
A person who became president a year after stepping down from the post of prosecutor general would have no political power of his own. He is new to politics, so he promoted old people who have done the job before. He leans conservative, so he had no choice but to accept people who worked in the Lee Myung-bak administration. He may have not found any females to do jobs. So there are only three female ministers out of 19 positions, none among 10 presidential secretaries and 20 deputy ministers. Women makes up only 6 percent. It is a completely men-oriented government.
Only thing he can trust is his old affiliation with the prosecution service and many former prosecutors have key posts in the cabinet and presidential office. OMG has become a common description of Yoon Suk-yeol’s first government lineup. OMG stands for old, man and geomchal, prosecutors in Korean. I understand that he is fundamentally limited because he has such a small talent pool and won by a slim margin of 0.73 percentage point. But the problem is that he has gone beyond a tolerable limit.  
What’s more serious than the personnel decisions is the identity. Yoon failed to show what he wants to achieve in his term, what parts of the Moon Jae-in legacy he is trying to change, whether he is inheriting Roh Moo-hyun’s spirit or wants to rebuild the conservatives.  
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, center, announces his Cabinet line-up with minister nominees standing behind him in the briefing room of the transition team in Tongui-dong, Jongno District, central Seoul, on April 13. [YONHAP]

President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, center, announces his Cabinet line-up with minister nominees standing behind him in the briefing room of the transition team in Tongui-dong, Jongno District, central Seoul, on April 13. [YONHAP]

In his inaugural speech, Yoon spoke of “liberty” without offering any ways to implement and enjoy liberty. Even if there was a problem in communication, it is mystery that he did not clearly oppose the bill stripping the prosecutors of their investigative powers, which was his life at one time in the not so distant past.
The personnel decisions and the legislation to strip prosecutors of investigative power may be overturned later, but diplomacy and security decisions probably can’t. The Korea-U.S. summit, where Yoon will face the U.S. president 10 days after his inauguration, sounds like a time to build a friendship between ally leaders, but it is hardly the case.  
It is a battlefield between countries. With the midterm election approaching in November, U.S. President Joe Biden will urge building a joint front against Russia and China and encourage investments in the United States. Yoon must be prepared to prioritize Korea’s national interests and, in some cases, focus Biden on the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear issue. Yoon has to become a gladiator. The entire nation, and perhaps the world, is watching the competency of the president Koreans elected.
President Roh Moo-hyun was known for a confident personality and he was rarely intimidated. In 2003, he visited the United States for a Korea-U.S. summit 79 days after his inauguration. Prior to a banquet with U.S. President Bush, Roh had a luncheon with Vice President Dick Cheney. Once the press left, Cheney started to aggressively ask him about North Korea.  
Roh could barely touch the three-course meal. After the meeting, attendees were moving to the next event in limousines, and Roh called one of his aides and asked, “You have many experiences accompanying summits. How did I do?” How nervous he must have been. That is the weight felt by the president. One must spend sleepless nights to prepare and prepare again. It is fortunate that the foreign policy and ceremonial advisors of the new administration have some competent people.
Another worry is the National Intelligence Service. On May 28, 2018, the Chosun Ilbo reported that three NIS agents, including the second deputy chief Kim Sang-gyun, visited Pyongyang and had an unofficial meeting. The Blue House immediately denied the allegation. I heard later that the NIS had borrowed the names of the three agents to help a team of the U.S. Central Intelligence Service, including Andrew Kim, get into North Korea. In the Moon Jae-in administration, the NIS helped North Korea as much as possible.
Moreover, a stone carved with the writing in Shin Young-bok’s font was placed at the NIS, when Shin had been suspected of being a North Korean spy. The pride of former and incumbent NIS employees fell. The stone needs to be immediately removed and replaced. It is a symbol to establish the Yoon administration, and identity and legitimacy of the Republic of Korea, right. The next is to transform into a new breed of intelligence agency centered on overseas intelligence without any political influence. 
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