|President-elect Park Geun-hye and Kim Yong-joon, transition chief and prime ministerial nominee, attend a briefing by the presidential transition team’s economic subcommittee in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap News)|
In his first news conference after being nominated prime minister, Kim Yong-joon on Thursday defined the job as “aiding the president and managing ministries following her direction.”
President-elect Park Geun-hye’s decision to name her transition chief and former chief justice to the top Cabinet post was a surprise to many, even those in her inner circle.
What astonished critics more was his perception of his role: playing second fiddle to the chief executive.
A favorable reading would interpret his statement as a refection of his humble and unassuming character. It may also be too early for him to offer a complete description of his new job. But it is far from what the president-elect has said about the way her government should be run.
During the campaign, Park pledged to give more powers to the prime minister and ministers in terms of policy and appointments. She projected what pundits called “a responsible prime minister and ministers” as an antidote to the “imperial” presidency, which is blamed for corruption, inefficiency and authoritarianism in government.
As part of political reform measures, Park vowed to ensure that the authorities given to the post under the constitution are exercised more completely.
Politicians even from the ruling Saenuri Party raised concerns that the choice of Kim may be a sign of deviation from the pledge, citing his lack of experience in dealing with state affairs and his style, which is closer to that of a manager than that of a statesman.
“There are many good points such as his upright character, but it seems that the hopes for a responsible prime minister have fallen apart somewhat,” Rep. Cho Hae-jin of the Saenuri Party said in a radio interview on Friday.
Cho went on to say that Kim does not fully meet the requirements of “a prime minister with the power and authority required by the times.”
He added that Kim also lacked political and administrative experience, which will become increasingly important as the prime minister is likely to be required to preside over the Cabinet meeting in Sejong City.
Others of the ruling party, however, have come to Kim’s defense.
“He has upheld the law and principles all his life as a legal professional, and appears not only to be capable but to have strong will,” Rep. Lee Cheol-woo.
“Judging by Kim’s character and his history, he will fully function as a responsible prime minister.”
The main opposition Democratic United Party did not oppose the nomination outright, but has promised a stringent confirmation hearing.
Political parties are required to set up the special hearing committee within two days, and complete the hearing within 15 days after a confirmation hearing request is submitted to the National Assembly.
“There are two requirements to be one of the nation’s highest leaders. One is the ability to achieve public unity, and the other is the ability to manage state affairs,” DUP emergency committee chief Moon Hee-sang.
“It needs to be proven whether Kim has the ability to achieve public integration and to manage state affairs, and whether he is appropriate for the ‘responsible prime minister’ system Park has pledged.”
Moon also questioned whether a former Constitutional Court chief taking the prime minister’s office was appropriate under the separation of powers.
In addition, the DUP has already raised concerns about his communicative style.
“Kim has so far shown actions that are far removed from communication. He avoided questions from the media or remained silent, and (the level of communication) remained at conveying the president-elect’s intentions rather than showing his own intentions and judgments,” Rep. Lee Un-ju, the DUP floor spokesperson, said in a statement.
She added that Kim’s ruling that the Special Act on May 18 Democratization Movement was partially unconstitutional also raised concerns about his historical values.
While serving as the Constitutional Court president in 1996, Kim ruled the act partially unconstitutional as it breached the principle of non-retroactivity.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com