Commenting on his meeting with President-elect Yoon Seok-youl, which was cancelled indefinitely, President Moon Jae-in said Friday, “I don’t think the two sides need any coordination,” adding, “Meeting with each other without reservation as soon as possible is our obligation to the public.” Mentioning mutual trust and close communications, Yoon responded to Moon’s remarks by saying “I will try hard to bring about outcomes desirable from people’s perspective.” The situation seems to be shifting to solution mode four days after their first meeting was cancelled.
The fact the two sides cancelled the meeting just four hours before the event after publicizing the schedule to the public is unprecedented. Both sides apparently felt burden about the recent situation wherein the income and outgoing presidents were seen on a collision course. On Friday, the Presidential Transition Committee also was officially launched nine days after the presidential election. The two sides should put side bad feelings or differing views and meet with each other sooner rather than later to narrow differences.
Officials on both sides including presidential staff, aides to the president-elect, and leaderships of the ruling and opposition parties showed behaviors that are pitiful at best after the cancellation of the original meeting. They took turns to blast each other, with one side saying “stop appointing posts (on final days)” over the incumbent administration’s appointment of its officials to high-paying or key posts including executives at state-run companies and the Bank of Korea’s next governor,” with the other saying, “Stop critiquing the President’s right to personnel affairs.” The two sides also exchanged disparaging words over the issue of presidential pardon of former President Lee Myung-bak and South Gyeongsang Provincial Governor Kim Kyung-soo.
Tak Hyun-min, the presidential secretary for protocol, also criticized the president-elect’s bid to relocate the presidential office by making a social media post. “If you don’t want to use this (the Cheong Wa Dae), I want to ask if we can continue using this place. When Japanese imperialists transformed the Changgyeong Palace into a zoo, they said they would return it to subjects (people),” he said, making a mockery of the new government. President Moon warned his aides, saying “Refrain from disclosing your personal opinions,” as if he realized the seriousness of the situation.
The outgoing administration, which has to hand over power five years after inauguration, and the incoming one, would have completely different sentiment and interests. The public is well aware that Moon and Yoon are in uncomfortable relationship. People want to see the two sides achieve more smooth and harmonious transition of power. How smoothly and efficiently incoming and outgoing administrations are transitioned is a barometer of the level of a country’s democracy.
Apart from presidential pardon and right to personnel appointments, there could be various other critical issues to address. The two sides can never resolve all different issues at their first meeting. It is truly uncomfortable for the public to see the two sides lock horns over details on the agenda even before getting together. The very moment when the two sides come together to meet and exchange words of blessings would help appease the sentiment of the public, which was severely divided into two in the course of the presidential election. Even though Moon and Yoon became unfriendly with each other, they would have something to say to each other. Their meeting should not be just once. If the two sides build up trust, they could meet anywhere, be it at the presidential office or a place of choice by the president-elect.