Published : 2013-01-15 19:34
Updated : 2013-01-15 19:34
Speculation has been rampant over what led to the recent resignation of a key member of the presidential transition committee. Aides to President-elect Park Geun-hye have failed to give any specific reason why Choi Dae-seok, one of the top three members of the committee’s subpanel on foreign affairs, defense and unification, abruptly stepped down last Saturday.
While repeatedly citing an unspecified personal reason for his departure, they have rebuffed allegations that Choi might have been in conflict with other members over his reconciliatory approach toward North Korea.
Some observers say that Choi could have quit to take responsibility for the leaking of the committee’s plan to reorganize the presidential office, including the creation of an office in charge of coordinating national security policies.
His case may well prompt concerns over the opaque way the committee is operated and Park’s personnel management behind closed doors.
What should worry us particularly, however, is whether the president-elect, who takes office on Feb. 25, is prepared to build the best possible national security team around her.
Choi, a U.S.-educated professor on North Korea studies at a Seoul university, is known as an architect of Park’s approach toward Pyongyang, termed as the confidence-building process on the Korean Peninsula. Having offered policy advice to Park for the past eight years, he was touted as likely candidate to become the first unification minister in her government.
His sudden departure without proper explanation raises concerns that Park still lacks a clear and specific plan for forming a team to help her tackle the formidable diplomatic and security challenges she will face from the first day in office.
A state-run think tank said in its report last month that the incoming administration would face the most difficult foreign policy environment this century.
Park’s government should deal with “more serious, complicated and diverse” dangers posed by the communist regime in Pyongyang. It would be plunged into a security crisis off guard if North Korea followed last month’s long-range rocket launch with a nuclear test in time for its inauguration, as expected by some observers.
It should also preserve and enhance the national interest based on sophisticated tactics and long-term visions amid the growing rivalry between Washington and Beijing over hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region and the mounting tension between China and Japan over disputed islands.
A slight misstep in handling the relationship with North Korea and neighboring powers could put the country’s security at risk. Park should now place top priority on setting up the best possible line-up of diplomatic and security strategists capable of dealing with such challenges as soon as possible. In a sense, she has already become engaged in diplomacy with major powers by meeting special envoys from China and Japan and diplomats from other nations.
In the best interests of the country, the national security team should have been virtually formed by this time to work out concrete policies to be pursued under the next administration. To our regret, the controversy over Choi’s departure has shown it is far from the case. The president-elect needs to ease public concerns by being more active and thorough toward the crucial work of forming her diplomatic and security team.