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A half-baked reshuffle (KOR)

Aug 10,2019
President Moon Jae-in’s cabinet reshuffle on Friday was just a repeat of his signature revolving-door appointments based on ideology and a small pool of talent. We expected him to revamp his administration to tackle a plethora of daunting challenges at home and abroad through the reshuffle. But it fell way short of easing our concerns about the government’s ability to weather an economic and diplomatic crisis.

Despite the need to address diplomatic issues, including the trade row between Korea and Japan, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha became a laughing stock by saying, “We may need to study available countermeasures from now” after Japan took steps to restrict sensitive export items to Korea.

Given the sheer confusion and disarray in our military over the identity of short-range ballistic missiles North Korea has fired repeatedly, officials in charge of national defense and security should also be changed urgently. China and Russia are joining to scorn the level of our military preparedness while the United States and Japan increasingly turn away from their core ally in Northeast Asia.

A reshuffle is a tool to solve such problems. President Moon should have held his National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong and his aides accountable for the redundant loopholes in our security. But no one in the Blue House National Security Office has resigned.

The appointment of Cho Kuk, Moon’s former senior secretary for civil affairs, as justice minister is very hard to understand. Cho — who was named the “most embarrassing graduate from Seoul National University in history” by students — must take responsibility for the endless appointment issues of the Moon administration as he failed to carry out his duty of screening candidate qualifications of top government officials.

Moon reportedly picked him as justice minister to accelerate prosecution reform. But the job should be done through revisions of laws in the National Assembly.

His half-baked — yet relentless — campaign to establish an extraordinary body to investigate crimes involving high government officials and rearrange investigative rights between the prosecution and the police helped spike division even in the administration and ruling party.
Another question is whether Cho, who tilts toward a liberal ideology, really fits the position of justice minister when considering the provocative remarks he persistently made on social media.

In his inauguration address, Moon vowed to appoint competent people for government offices regardless of their support for him. But he has not keep his promise. New faces with strong convictions for a better future of our country are nowhere to be seen in the reshuffle.

As Moon himself has said, Korea faces a colossal crisis. He must replace incompetent officials in the defense and security fields before it’s too late. Also, he must withdraw his appointment of Cho as justice minister. It is not the time for obstinacy.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 10, Page 30