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A practical, not political, pres. transition team

Posted January. 05, 2013 00:28,   


The presidential transition committee has no political elite or confidants of President-elect Park Geun-hye. On the contrary, many committee members were scholars and professionals who have focused on their fields, so watchers even say they can hardly identify who the members are. Committee chairman Kim Yong-joon said, “The transition committee is aimed at devising a philosophy of administration and drafting a policy orientation as to which direction the new government will move toward, and thus preparing it to make a seamless start.” Political colors or distribution of posts among contributors to Park`s election victory and regional favoritism have been ruled out in the composition of the committee, but seven of the committee`s 22 members are former members of the Future Research Institute who know the president-elect`s thoughts and policies well. As such, the committee is different from its predecessors, which were called “pre-presidential offices.”

Yoon Min-bong, a professor at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul who will chair the transition team`s administration planning and coordination subcommittee, should play a central role in the reshuffle of government organizations and selection of national agenda. He has no personal connection with Park, and he once warned that the appointment of outsiders to key government posts will distort resource distribution at the national level. If Yoo pushes ahead with this belief, he can reform over the transition committee period`s the practice of organizational reshuffle, in which public posts are distributed to contributors in elections, appointment of contributors to key posts, corruption in which individuals make personal gains through public jobs, and non-transparent public administration. Former Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo, who is secretary of the diplomacy, national defense and unification subcommittee, is known for having a strong sense of national security. He even earned the nickname “undaunted general” under the Roh Moo-hyun administration. Secretaries of the first and second economy subcommittees seem to have been appointed reflecting Park’s election pledges on economic democratization and purported economic reshuffle to promote small and medium businesses. But whether any of the committee members have the guts and courage to say "No" to Park remains unclear.

The transition committee is a mirror that reflects the character and success of the incoming government. In the transition committee for the outgoing Lee Myung-bak administration, an advisory member on real estate policy was dismissed for providing high-priced property consulting. Members of the national competitiveness subcommittee went to Ganghwa County in Incheon and were treated to an expensive luncheon of eel dishes. This forced committee chairwoman Lee Kyung-sook to make repeated apologies. In the transition committee for the Roh administration, which mainly comprised of 40-something academics, a professional member of a subcommittee bolted from a debriefing session by the Labor and Employment Ministry, earning criticism that he acted like an occupational force or winner in a war. The former displayed a lack of mindset for public interests and the latter excessive ideology that effectively reflected the characteristics of the two previous administrations over their transition committee periods.

The purpose of a presidential transition committee is to maintain continuity in national administration. Park`s team must strictly eval‍uate the achievements and faults of the outgoing Lee administration, and use its findings as lessons for the next government to govern while maintaining consistency in policy. Whether the Park administration will achieve its pledged “Republic of Korea for 100 percent of the people” and "a nation where the people are happy” will depend on how sternly and responsibly the transition committee handle state affairs.