President Moon Jae-in has named former interior minister Kim Boo-kyum as the country’s new Prime Minister to replace Chung Sye-kyun, who resigned Friday. Other ministers who were replaced as part of a reshuffle include Land Minister Byun Chang-heum, who resigned due to a land speculation scandal involving some employees of the Land and Housing Corporation (LH), Science and ICT minister, Trade, Industry, and Energy minister, Employment and Labor minister, and Oceans and Fisheries minister. President Moon also nominated former lawmaker Lee Cheol-hee as senior presidential secretary for political affairs to replace Choi Jae-sung. Through a major reshuffle, President Moon has set the final lineup of his Cabinet in the last year of his term.
Prime Minister nominee Kim is a former four-term lawmaker in the Daegu and North Gyeongsang area, which is the conservative heartland of the country, and served as the first interior minister of the current administration. But he is widely considered as a non-mainstream member of the party. The same goes to new senior presidential secretary for political affairs Lee Cheol-hee. President Moon’s nomination of non-mainstream party members as key posts of his Cabinet appears to have reflected the public sentiment shown in the April 7 by-elections.
The by-election results showed that the public has been repelled by the arrogance and hypocrisy of the Moon Jae-in administration for the past four years. If so, the government will have to seek a change in its policy stance that has failed to reflect the public sentiment. President Moon Jae-in said he take the people’s reproach seriously but avoided mentioning a reform of state affairs. It seems that the focus is on maintaining the current policy stance instead of a reform. This is why it is questionable if the administration is faking a reform by naming non-mainstream party members to key posts without making fundamental changes to its policy stance.
Last year, when the friction between Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and Persecutor General Yoon Seok-youl reached peak, President Moon tapped Shin Hyun-soo as senior presidential civil affairs secretary because he was believed to mediate between Choo and Yoon. However, Shin had to resign after three months over personnel spat with incumbent Justice Minister Park Beom-kye. Naming new faces does not constitute a reform. In a modern presidential system, minister and presidential aides cannot voice their opinions properly if the president does not change his mind.
Most of the key political issues will be dealt with during the presidential race, which is expected to begin in earnest from the second half of the year. Amidst this turmoil, the remaining task of the Moon Jae-in administration is to complete state affairs in a stable manner. To this end, it should reflect on its unilateral policy stance and realize a true cooperation with the opposition parties and the people. One way of doing it would be a start operating a consultative body between the ruling and the opposition parties and the government, which has been useless so far. The Cabinet reshuffle should serve as priming water for a true reform of state affairs.