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Burning bridges

Sept 15,2017
The ruling party joined the opposition in disapproving of Park Seong-jin, a mechanical engineering professor at Pohang University of Science and Technology, as the candidate to lead the Ministry of SMEs and Startups, whose role has been enlarged under the new administration. The president will not be able to defy the legislature’s objection and push ahead with his choice because the three opposition parties have threatened to veto the nomination of Kim Myeong-su as chief justice of the Supreme Court if Park is allowed to serve office without legislative confirmation. The fiasco raises fundamental questions about the president’s appointment choices and capacity to run the administration.

First of all, there are signs of fissures between the presidential office and ruling party. The Blue House neglected to convince the Democratic Party (DP), even though it raised concerns about Park’s ideological and religious values. As a result, the ruling party ended up publicly disagreeing with a presidential choice for cabinet. The DP also acted narrow-mindedly by rejecting the president’s first choice of a conservative figure. It was cowardly in its show of opposition. Instead of outright vetoing it, DP members walked out of a committee meeting as a sign of disapproval.

The conservative opposition parties were equally childish. They first praised Park for sharing common views on history, but nevertheless disqualified him. The confirmation process also underscored the DP’s rigid and domineering ways. DP chair Choo Mi-ae and floor leader Woo Won-shik pushed ahead with the vote on Constitutional Court chief justice nominee Kim Yi-su, instead of working harder to persuade the opposition, causing the first-ever legislative veto of a Constitutional Court chief nominee.

The DP not only has to fight the conservative parties, but also the People’s Party, after Moon’s former rival, Ahn Cheol-soo, has returned to the helm. Instead of correcting its ways, the DP habitually picks fight with the People’s Party. If it keeps this up, it risks trouble over other government bills, including next year’s budget proposal.

The former administration did poorly because President Park Geun-hye was at odds with the ruling party as well as the opposition. The incumbent president and ruling party are no different in the ways they vehemently criticized the former president and the opposition. The latest is the president’s sixth appointment to raise controversy. The presidential office must carefully reflect on its ways and work harder to improve its failing relationship with the legislature.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 14, Page 34