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Sheer irresponsibility

July 22,2019
Cho Kuk, a senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, went too far in terms of leading public opinion through Facebook. The 17 posts he has made over the last four days are mostly aimed at inciting anti-Japanese sentiment among citizens and dividing them into friends and foes, as seen in his messages such as “Those who oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling on wartime forced labor are pro-Japanese” or “What counts most in a trade war with Japan is patriotism.” In the face of criticism from even the liberal camp, he went a step further by urging Koreans “not to fear Japan though it is stronger than Korea.”

Cho is a core member of Moon Jae-in’s presidential aides and an intellectual who served as a professor at the Seoul National University Law School. Despite being a heavyweight in the Blue House, he is bent on posting shameful messages on Facebook blindly attacking the media and opposition parties for their different views and resorting to nationalism to stir ordinary citizens in the government’s crusade against Japan.

These attitudes remind us of totalitarianism of the past. Public concern is deepening after rumors spread that he will be appointed justice minister in an imminent reshuffle. A bigger problem is a critical lack of people in the presidential office or ruling party putting the brakes on him. President Moon’s silence on the issue suggests his tacit agreement to Cho’s rampage. If that’s the case, it is better for Cho to make it official and he should be at the forefront of the battle with Japan and the opposition.

Cho has repeatedly reneged on his duty to scrutinize candidates for high offices in the government. As a result, as many as 16 nominees had to take their ministerial-level positions without the legislature’s approval through confirmation hearings — a stark difference from the previous Park Geun-hye administration, which appointed 11 ministers without the legislative endorsement. But Cho made no apology for the unprecedented personnel affairs debacle.

Even in the ruling party and government, there are growing voices criticizing Cho’s behavior, as seen in a piece by a liberal columnist who denounced him for making one nonsensical remark after another. Cho must stop his over-the-top posts on Facebook because it is not what a strategist should do. Otherwise, he will face a harsh confirmation hearing later this month.