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Yoon’s ‘my-way’ formation of Cabinet

Posted April. 15, 2022 08:00,   

Updated April. 15, 2022 08:00


South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol completed the nomination for his first Cabinet. He completed the nomination of 18 ministers and the prime minister by nominating candidates for the Minister of Employment and Labor and the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on Thursday. The formation of a Cabinet was not really about who will work in the new administration. It was a test of whether Yoon has an intention to pursue inclusiveness and fairness, how rich a talent pool is, and how state affairs will be run. In the end, his choices lacked a sense of balance or newness and a broad direction for running state affairs is hard to find.

Yoon emphasized meritocracy by saying that he would not allocate or distribute positions based on certain criteria. He explained that nominating highly capable figures would naturally set the balance in terms of regions, generations, and genders. However, it is doubtful how hard he tried to seek new talents with verified capabilities in government posts. As he is under criticism for nominating those close to him in prosecution, a figure who went to the same high school as him, and a friend of 40 years, the limits of a small talent pool were revealed.

Han Duck-soo might have been nominated as a prime minister candidate considering the likelihood of earning the National Assembly’s approval, there are many issues being raised, such as his receipt of high consulting fees. There are several figures who worked in the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations. The prime minister, deputy prime minister for economic affairs, and chief presidential secretary nominees all have a background in economic bureaucrats. He said he would nominate talented figures regardless of his or her political orientation but his nomination lacked inclusiveness. For unknown reasons, not a single figure close to Ahn Cheol-soo, the head of the presidential transition committee, was nominated for the Cabinet, which is why some are worried about a potential crisis in the joint government.

While it is troublesome to artificially balance in terms of regions, generations, and genders, it is regretful that Yoon’s nomination seems to abandon such an effort. Seven minister candidates are from Gyeongsang region while only two candidates, including a prime minister nominee, are from Jeolla region. Most graduated from Seoul National University and Korean University and there are only three female nominees. Everyone except for Han Dong-hoon, a 49-year-old nominee for the minister of Justice, is over 50. Some concerns are expressed about the lack of dynamism in the Cabinet.

Each nominee may have his or her own professional capabilities. However, what’s more important is harmony between them. While Yoon emphasized that a prime minister and ministers should have accountabilities, it seems like Han Duck-soo’s right to recommend a person's appointment was only a formality. The Cabinet led by Han lacks personality, which may lead to a divide between a prime minister and ministers. Yoon should be more clear about how he will run state affairs, such as economy, diplomacy, and welfare with what vision and goals and what missions he will have ministers to achieve. In addition, he needs to make up for the lack of balance and newness with the nomination of vice ministers. It is unfortunate that the formation of a Cabinet only confirmed Yoon’s ‘my-way’ style over personnel matters.