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A moonstruck public

July 12,2017
The ruling Democratic Party has continued with the legislative procedure on the government proposal for a supplementary budget. The National Assembly budget committee embarked on the deliberation of the bill without the presence of members from the three opposition parties. President Moon Jae-in returned home after successfully debuting on the international stage only to discover domestic politics mired in bickering and conflict. He may have been disappointed by the cold reception, but a leader faces one challenge after another.

The National Assembly has been in a stalemate for more than a month because of the opposition’s discontent with the nominees Moon has chosen for his cabinet members. Then the ruling party fell apart with the People’s Party as it came under allegations of having orchestrated a smear campaign against Moon and his son during presidential election. Moon would have to decide on the fate of his choices for defense and labor minister, whom the opposition refuses to endorse on ethical grounds.

Song Young-moo, the defense minister nominee, has earned 240 million won ($208,968) from a defense company and 990 million won in a law firm after retiring as the Navy chief of staff. He is now facing questioning for alleged abuse of his connections for lobbying. Few think he is apt to reform the shady collusion between the military and industry sectors.

Cho Dae-yop, nominated for labor minister, has a record of drinking and driving and is accused of breaking the labor law as he had been an outside board member of a company charged of habitually deferring salary payments to its employees. He too cannot be expected to spearhead much-resisted reforms in the labor sector. The ruling party suspects political motivation is behind the opposition’s refusal to endorse them. But their ineligibility is pretty much self-explanatory.

Some think Moon can still push ahead with their appointments because the president enjoys a public approval rating of around 80 percent. But they would be self-indulgent to believe so. The People’s Party should apologize for its foul play, but the ruling party needed not publicly hurt its pride and publicly scorn the party. The president must value public support when he has it. He needs not waste it by clinging to unfit candidates.

The honeymoon is almost over for Moon and his party. They must see through bills to create jobs and confirm senior government posts. We need more far-sighted behavior from the president.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 11, Page 30