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Finding common ground

June 16,2017
The honeymoon period between the new president and the legislature has ended. Confirmation hearings for three ministerial nominees could not be held until the afternoon of Wednesday due to the main opposition Liberal Korea Party’s boycott in protest to the president’s executive action to stamp the appointment of Fair Trade Commission head Kim Sang-jo regardless of the opposition’s disapproval. Promises of cooperation with the legislature and bipartisanship have been broken just a month after the new president was sworn in.

The opposition warned that it would heighten its protests if the president pushed ahead with the appointment of foreign minister nominee Kang Kyung-wha. The administration, however, demanded the National Assembly send its report on her confirmation hearing, a move suggesting the president plans to push ahead with Kang’s appointment without the opposition’s consent. The political climate is bound to worsen, making the reviews for the supplementary budget plan and government reorganization proposal more difficult. The government will now not be able to launch its cabinet. The president has named 15 of 17 ministerial offices. But the prospect of their confirmations is murky given the current standoff.

President Moon Jae-in will not be able to push ahead with his campaign and reform agenda if he is in a pitched battle with the opposition-majority legislature. The presidential office and ruling party must do all they can to restore their relationship with the opposition. The new administration cannot afford to waste more time. The opposition claims must be heard and compromises must be made in order to normalize state affairs.

The opposition is also partly to blame for ruining the relationship. But the essence of the stalemate lies with the controversial candidates. The nominees have violated the prerequisites Moon set for senior government officials. It is wrong to criticize the opposition for being uncooperative when the president caused the problem in the first place. The ruling party claims there are no fault-free figures, but that’s because the president has not been looking hard enough.

The success of the reform-minded administration hinges on its relationship with the legislature. Moon is arrogant if he thinks he can insist on sticking to contested cabinet nominees. Both the opposition and ruling party must step back and endeavor to find some common ground.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 15, Page 30