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Moon’s address is the key

June 12,2017
President Moon Jae-in’s nominations of Kim Yi-soo as chief justice of the Constitutional Court, Kim Sang-jo as chairman of the Fair Trade Commission, and Kang Kyung-wha as foreign minister have yet to jump over the many needed hurdles before approval at the National Assembly. President Moon’s troubles with his appointments for the top posts mostly stem from their violations of the five moral standards Moon proclaimed to apply before placing them in key positions of his administration.

Moon faces the biggest deadlock over the fate of foreign minister nominee Kang. While the minor opposition People’s Party, which holds “casting votes” in approving those nominees, has left room for supporting the two Kims, albeit with strings attached, the party has steadfastly refused to approve Kang’s nomination for foreign minister.

The public had high expectations for Kang, as she was the first female nominee for foreign minister, thanks to her long experience with the United Nations. But she was found to have committed some of the five “sins” defined by the president — fake address registration, tax evasion and plagiarism, to name a few — and even lies at her confirmation hearing last week. On top of that, lawmakers from the Foreign Affairs Committee insist that she failed to demonstrate her capabilities to tackle our grave security challenges, citing her critical lack of understanding on the heightened tension from North Korea’s nuclear provocations.

Nevertheless, the Moon administration is poised to push Kang’s appointment forward, based on the president’s spectacularly high approval rating of over 80 percent. President Moon seems to be intent on sticking to Kang’s nomination no matter what — even by underscoring support from former sex slaves, women’s civic groups and ex-foreign ministers. But that is a penny-wise and pound-foolish decision. If Moon presses ahead with his choice, it can not only invite vehement resistance from opposition parties but also cause a serious problem in getting legislative approvals for other top posts and passing his 11.2 trillion won ($9.96 billion) supplementary budget aimed at creating jobs.

It all depends on Moon. He must use his address to the National Assembly today as an opportunity to weather his appointments crisis. Moon must first admit to the unrealistically high moral standards and propose the opposition to establish a new set of rational standards. The government must make an effort to ease the opposition’s growing concern about Kang before demanding their cooperation.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 12, Page 34