The meeting between President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Seok-youl, scheduled for Wednesday, was canceled. Four hours before the scheduled meeting, Cheong Wa Dae said the two sides agreed to rescheduled the meeting as working-level discussions have not been completed. The Yoon’s side also announced the postponement of the meeting, saying the two sides agreed not to disclose the reason. The two sides said they will continue to hold working-level discussions and set a new date for the meeting.
Disputes between old and new powers during transition period are inevitable, but this is the first time that a scheduled meeting between incumbent and incoming presidents has been abruptly canceled. Although it is just a ceremonial event, where incumbent and incoming presidents meet and exchange words of congratulations, and vow smooth transition of power, such meeting has been an indicator showing democratic maturity of our politics. It is regrettable that the two sides revealed hard feelings even before their first meeting after the election.
Although the two sides did not disclose the reason for the cancellation, it is likely due to their differences over various agendas, such as pardon of former President Lee Myung-bak and appointment of public officials. Prior to the meeting, Cheong Wa Dae and the president-elect had pointless disputes with everything. President-elect Yoon put pressure on President Moon to pardon former President Lee Myung-bak even though it is the privilege of the president to grant a pardon. Regarding Cheong Wa Dae’s right to appoint public officials at the end of President Moon’s term, the Yoon’s side asked for prior consultation. In response, Cheong Wa Dae said it is only natural that they exercise the right to appoint public officials until May 9. As for the president-elect’s announcement to abolish the office of senior secretary for civil affairs, Cheong Wa Dae expressed their displeasure, saying the Yoon’s side is using something Cheong Wa Dae did not do as grounds.
Against this backdrop, the scheduled meeting between Moon and Yoon would have been a disgraceful and unpleasant event. It would have been enough if the two sides had vowed smooth transition of power during the meeting. Instead of putting their pride aside, the Yoon’s side stressed winner’s right to exercise rights while Cheong Wa Dae emphasized the ruling party’s majority in the National Assembly. The two sides will have to bear greater political burden due to the postponement of the meeting. If they cannot restrain themselves and make concessions and as a result fail to meet half way, there will be bleak future for our politics.
A message the March 9 presidential election gives was clear. It was a stern judgment against the current government. At the same time, a razor-thin victory of the People Power Party was a message calling for humility. Both Cheong Wa Dae and the president-elect vowed to achieve unity and cooperation after the presidential election. However, the retreating power is not looking back on the past five years and the incoming power is not looking ahead into the future. If the two sides do not change, the unfortunate history of former presidents will only repeat itself.