Prime Minister Chung Un-chan said Wednesday that he will take full responsibility for the government`s failure to have a bill on revising the Sejong City developmental project pass the National Assembly. He was called the Sejong City prime minister for championing the bill since taking office, warning that the originally planned relocation of 13 government offices to South Chungcheong Province would cause administrative inefficiency. He should not be the only one held responsible for the bills defeat, however. Under a system in which all power is concentrated with the president, a prime minister has limited power in correcting the error of the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration and political circles. Chung, however, should resign given the bills rejection. He had staked his political career on the bill and was pushed hard by the incumbent administration to that end.
The Lee Myung-bak administration, whose term will reach a turning point in August, might have to run the country with a divided government because of internal conflict within the ruling Grand National Party. This was shown in the process of the revision bills rejection. With just about a third of lawmakers backing the administrations key policy agenda, it badly needs cooperation to resolve key matters such as the economy, job creation and threats from North Korea. While the partys national convention July 14 could be the starting point for reform, it is almost impossible for the administration to recover its driving force for state affairs and recover public confidence unless the Cabinet and the presidential office undergo a sweeping reshuffle.
Certain politicians in the ruling camp warn that a major Cabinet reshuffle, including appointing a new prime minister, could push the troubled administration into a more serious situation given the need for parliamentary confirmation hearings. Such a passive and defensive idea, however, will not help achieve a breakthrough in the difficult situation. The government cannot regain the peoples confidence if it fails to impress by appointing able and respected figures to key posts and inject new life into the administration.
The results of the June 2 local elections and the parliamentary rejection of the Sejong City revision bill have exposed the easygoing perception of reality that is so prevalent in the ruling party, Cabinet and the presidential office. Senior presidential secretaries ought to assume responsibility to help the president regain control over the situation. Signs suggest that key figures in the ruling camp who should assume such a responsibility are instead enjoying their power and waging a power struggle over newly available government posts. They should be expelled from the government as soon as possible. The longer the ruling camp delays reform, the deeper the political crisis will become and hasten the people turning their backs on the administration.