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[Editorial] The Costs of a Cabinet Reshuffle

Posted November. 11, 2008 09:21,   


Despite a denial from the presidential office, expectations of an early Cabinet reshuffle are gaining momentum. Last month, ministers, vice ministers and the heads of government agencies all received performance evaluations. Even names have been mentioned for major government positions. Some have predicted a more specific schedule, as in the reshuffle will come between Lunar New Year (Jan. 26) and the first anniversary of the Lee administration (Feb. 25). Given the economic crisis and the upcoming inauguration of a new U.S. administration, a Cabinet reshuffle seems necessary.

Replacing three ministers in July was a way to deal with the fallout from anti-U.S. beef protests. In this regard, the next reshuffle will be the first official one by the Lee administration. Therefore, the new Cabinet must compensate for the previous appointments of unqualified personnel, poor management of political, social and economic issues and errors, make a new start, and increase efficiency at the start of the administration’s second year.

The president’s term is five years, but given the time to adjust and the lame duck period, he has in essence two to three years to work with. This means the second year is all the more important in deciding the success of the administration. If necessary, a major Cabinet reshuffle or reform of government organization and the presidential office must be considered.

In a reshuffle, the government must minimize costs that could cause chaos or a void in administration. The reshuffle in February stirred controversy over allegations that the president chose close or rich friends as ministers along with questions over their morality. As a result, three ministers had to step down immediately after being appointed. Political disputes between the ruling and opposition parties hampered the confirmation hearing process, leaving the jobs empty more than a month.

The Korean people are ultimately the victims if the reshuffle causes chaos and a prolonged administrative void continues. To reduce the costs, the president must have a firm determination on what kind of officials can help him realize his political philosophy. He must then search for the right talent without letting personal feelings get in the way. Opposition parties for their part must cooperate as well. If they take this as an opportunity to attack the administration and the ruling party instead of assessing a candidate, the right people cannot be selected.