President Moon Jae-in appointed 12 vice minister-level officials including Vice Labor Minister Lim Seo-jeong as senior presidential secretary for jobs on Sunday. A former member of the ruling party who lost in the 21st general elections was appointed as head of the Public Procurement Service. Some may point out that the president appointed “his” people in order.
Many believe that this is a preparation work for the reshuffle of ministers at the end and beginning of the year. It seems that Moon highlighted the need to lower the bar for the personnel hearing at the National Assembly to hire capable staff in a meeting with National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seok last week with the reshuffle in mind. If it happens, it would be the “end of the term lineup” to finish his term at the office.
Cheong Wa Dae should make clear-headed assessment on government offices before the reshuffle. It also must dispense reward and punishment to services and faults based on the assessment. The first candidate is Land Minister Kim Hyun-mi because she failed to smooth over the real estate market for more than four years since she took office. Kim must be held accountable for throwing the housing prices as well as lease market into confusion even with more than 20 government policies. But she is busy blaming the previous administration and avoiding blames directed at her. If no changes are made to the policy direction by replacing the minister, it would be difficult to regain trust of the people.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, another “original member” of the administration, has degraded to a de-facto “shadow minister.” Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae is faced with a crisis where even public prosecutors denounce her due to the abuse of authority over personnel and investigation. Her one-way leadership may render the reform of the prosecution that was supposed to go smoothly into an internal war. Health Minister Park Neung-hoo brought on public criticism after making improper remarks including the time when he put the blame for the spread of COVID-19 on Korean citizens saying, “The problem is Koreans who returned to the country from China.”
Level-headed assessment on ministers is a prerequisite to prevent a lame duck situation. President Moon should appoint personnel based on capabilities to turn the direction of failed policies and keep a tight rein on state affairs rather than reshuffling just for the advantage of the administration. The first step is replacing ministers who lost public trust due to the policy failure and improper remarks so that the incumbent administration would be able to settle the public sentiment.