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Qualifications are key

May 31,2017
The Moon Jae-in administration’s top positions will likely be filled by a large number of ruling Democratic Party lawmakers. After his nomination of former South Jeolla Gov. Lee Nak-yon as prime minister was expected to pass the confirmation procedure, Moon announced picks for other top posts in the administration. Recommended by the ruling party, the new faces reflect the president’s pursuit of regional and gender balances for his cabinet as promised.

But political analysts believe Moon was most concerned about recruiting people who could be confirmed by the National Assembly. Many were incumbent lawmakers who have already undergone public scrutiny in past elections. Second, they are easily approved by the legislature thanks to their long-standing connections with other lawmakers. Moon underscored a need to govern the nation through cooperation with the National Assembly, which suggests more lawmakers will be nominated as ministers down the road.

Public reaction is not so bad. If the new liberal government wants to push a strong reform drive from the outset, political heavyweights from the ruling camp will surely do better than amateurs. Also, there is a need for the president to find effective mediators when he tries to communicate with the legislature in governing the country. We don’t find reasons to oppose his appointments, especially given a critical lack of political sense and harmony with the legislature seen in the last administration.

But there are concerns. If lawmakers representing their own districts work for the government, they can neglect their original obligations as legislators. If those lawmakers use their new positions as a means to expand their political footprints, it can only backfire. Korea’s political landscape is already overshadowed by populism as clearly seen in the lead-up to the May 9 presidential election.

The public does not like Moon giving top positions out as rewards. Ruling parties consider ministerial positions as trophies. In the Park Geun-hye administration, as many as seven lawmakers from the ruling party were appointed ministers at a time, which caused the party to become subordinate to the administration. That was a classic example of the bad practices the new president is eager to end.

When Moon really wants to put politicians in top government positions, it should be confined to those areas that require political senses and skills. If not, the new administration cannot avoid public criticism. The president must keep that in mind.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 31, Page 30