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Analysts discuss what next president will need to succeed

May 10,2017
With the launch of a new administration, doyens and political experts weighed in on the conditions needed to prevent another failed Korean presidency.

The JoongAng Ilbo interviewed nine senior statesmen and experts on what they expect from the next Korean president. They highlighted the importance of communication, managing of influence-peddling, fair appointments, joint governance with the opposition party and restructuring an appropriate relationship with the business sector.

These were all areas that the previous administration had failed in, they said.

“Communication for the president is not just simply dialogue. In order to run state affairs, the normalization of meetings is vital,” said Lee Won-jong, a former senior secretary for political affairs under the Kim Young-sam administration.

Park Hyung-joon, a former senior secretary for political affairs under Lee Myung-bak and social science professor at Dong-A University, likewise said, “The key to communication is how to organize large and small meetings related to state affairs and enable related people to easily participate.”

A president who merely issues orders and listens, or meetings that rigidly follow the agenda, are ineffective, the experts pointed out.

“There has to be communication not just within agencies related to the fourth industrial revolution, but between different ministries and also with the president,” said former Finance Minister Sagong Il. “The president has to meet with those who are in business and in media to hear their opinions and create a national plan.”

Many experts also urged the next administration to appoint people with opposite political viewpoints as well as opponents, instead of just those who were involved in their campaign and supporters.

Kim Won-ki, former National Assembly speaker, and others weighed in on the conditions needed to enable the next president to be successful. “A new president has to immediately make appointments that can move the people,” Kim said, “so that the gears turn well and the next stage can proceed along smoothly.”

Yoo In-tae, a former senior secretary for political affairs under President Roh Moo-hyun, said, “Public opinion should not be neglected, and after it is heard, a thorough review must take place.”

Aside from the prime minister and other key positions, Park Myung-ho, a political science professor at Dongguk University, suggested that the president should listen to the recommendation of various factions in the National Assembly.

Park Chan-jong, a former lawmaker, likewise advised that the Cabinet should reflect the proportion of seats and regions of the negotiating bodies in the National Assembly so that it is “acceptable to anybody who looks at it.”

Taking a lesson from the shocking influence-peddling scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye and her close confidante, Choi Soon-sil, the experts also weighed in on how to successfully avoid such a situation again.

“While it is desirable for the president to meet many people unofficially and listen to their opinions,” Yoon said, “this has to be discussed with the ministers and people officially in charge.”

Former presidential secretary Park likewise said, “The Blue House secretariat inner circle has to be thoroughly regulated so that it does not meddle with appointments.”

“[Former] U.S. President Barack Obama held at least two press conferences a month,” said Former lawmaker Park. “If reporters were allowed to ask, ‘Why is the daughter of Choi Tae-min coming in and out of the Blue House as she pleases?,’ a president would likely be more cautious,” referring to Choi Soon-sil’s father, who was a cult leader and had served as mentor to the former President Park.

Former parliamentary speakers also called for the necessity of bipartisan governance in the new administration.

Under the Park Geun-hye administration, the ruling and opposition parties were always in confrontation, even over bills they had initially agreed upon in the National Assembly.

Park Gwan-yong, former National Assembly speaker, advised the new president to “frequently meet with opposition party leaders.” Former speaker Kim said the practice whereby the president simply notifies them after a decision is made should be abandoned and for “all matters to be negotiated with the National Assembly and parties.”

“Party-to-party cooperation and coalition over policies is most preferable,” Former lawmaker Yoo said, “but if that’s not possible, the more the Blue House and National Assembly intervenes, the easier it will be for the ruling and opposition parties to find common ground.”

Major conglomerates, including Samsung and Lotte, became embroiled in the corruption scandal involving former President Park’s impeachment, while the Federation of Korean Industries, the influential corporate lobbying group, is undergoing an existential crisis. But experts pointed out that improving the relationship between the government and the business sector is necessary to advance the economy and create jobs.

“Washington holds a business round table at the White House to encourage investments,” said former Finance Minister Sakong, adding that the government and companies have to communicate with each other to make a plan concerning the national economy.

But many experts also pointed out that the president has to make a clear declaration to end corruption.

Kang Won-taek, a political science professor at Seoul National University, said, “So much as economic authority has expanded, a U.S.-style lobby system or some legitimate system has to be formed to reset the government’s ties with the business sector.”

BY LEE SO-AH, KIM POGNEE [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]