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No president is an island

June 20,2017
President Moon Jae-in risked a full-scale faceoff with the legislature by sticking to his choice of former UN official Kang Kyung-wha as his foreign minister. The Blue House explained that it can no longer afford a vacancy in the top diplomat position as it has to prepare for a summit meeting in Washington.

It is true that the circumstances on the foreign affairs and security fronts are too grave to stall the appointment of the chief of our foreign ministry. Moon’s choice of a women without credentials and not a part of the clubby foreign ministry clan had been praised as being refreshing. But the confirmation process exposed too many of Kang’s ethical flaws, from using a fake address to tax dodging and plagiarism allegations. She missed most of the guidelines Moon himself set for eligibility for senior public positions. Moreover, Kang did not demonstrate any vision or capabilities in public policymaking sufficient to make up for private shortcomings.

Yet Moon pushed ahead because Kang was evidently popular with the public. He also railroaded through the appointment of Kim Sang-jo, chosen to lead the Fair Trade Commission, who was also strongly contested by the opposition. If he goes ahead with decisions backed solely by public support he will jeopardize his relationship with the legislature. The new government’s policies could hit major snags without support from the opposition-led legislature. The three opposition parties are already warning that they won’t cooperate with the remaining confirmations and bills for a supplementary budget and government reorganization plan. They say the president has disregarded the legislature and they have a point.

Moon must change his ways. He must not force other controversial choices that fail to get consent from the opposition. Admitting to its appointment failures, the Blue House this week activated a committee to recommend candidates for vacant cabinet positions. Moon must end his unilateral recruitments and slipshot vetting processes. The committee must recommend at least three names for every position and scrutinize them independently. Cho Kuk, the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, should apologize for the fiasco over Justice Minister nominee Ahn Kyong-whan.

Moon must sincerely communicate with the legislature and stop thinking he can get his way because he has the backing of the public.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 19, Page 30