Published : 2013-01-31 19:57
Updated : 2013-01-31 19:57
President-elect Park Geun-hye will have to start the process of selecting her first prime minister all over again, as her first choice, Kim Yong-joon, withdrew from his designation Tuesday, as one suspicion after another was raised about his background.
With her inauguration scheduled for Feb. 25, she will have to speed up the process. It is not just the prime minister-designate but candidates for other Cabinet posts that will have to go through confirmation processes at the National Assembly.
Moreover, she will have to pick candidates for ministerial posts from among those recommended by her prime minister if she is to follow the selection procedure faithfully, as laid out in the Constitution. In other words, the process of filling the other Cabinet posts will have to start after, not before, her choice is approved as prime minister by the National Assembly.
Given the tight schedule until her inauguration, she cannot afford to make the same mistake of selecting an unqualified person for the post of prime minister. She will have to take extra caution this time if she wishes to make up for the costly blunder and select the right person for the post.
Kim’s withdrawal was a great setback for the president-elect. True, he was not the first to withdraw as a prime minister candidate ahead of a confirmation hearing. There were three others. But he was the first to do so as prime minister-designate picked by a president-elect.
But Park has no one else but herself to blame for the damage, given that she did not demand a watertight check on Kim’s background. It was not the first time for her to be accused of keeping her selection to herself.
When she was the leader and later presidential nominee of the ruling party, she used to be criticized for putting loyalty before anything else when selecting candidates for top party posts. In the process, she was blamed for rarely, if ever, seeking counsel either from her aides or outsiders.
Similar accusations were hurled against the president-elect when she filled some of the key posts of her transition team. When she was tapping outsiders for some other posts, she reportedly relied on their reputation as a guide, instead of demanding a rigorous check on their background by government agencies.
Of course, the most prominent case in point was the one involving Kim Yong-joon, a former justice of the Supreme Court and a former president of the Constitutional Court, who had been held in high esteem in the legal profession. But his reputation began to crumble when he was put under the scrutiny of the news media upon being selected as the prime minister candidate.
Suspicions were raised about his speculation in property. His two sons were found to have been exempted from mandatory military service for allegedly dubious health reasons. Allegations were also made about some other wrongdoings.
All these developments irked the ruling majority party, making its leaders wonder if it would not be difficult for Kim to tide over public opposition and get himself approved as prime minister. This sign of waning support in the ruling party apparently helped push him to quit.
Park has much to learn from her mistake. In selecting a new prime minister-designate, she will have to look beyond the pool of persons loyal to her and consider outsiders that have had no connections with her as potential candidates. Information on outsiders is amply available, given that the government maintains a huge database of human resources that can be tapped for public office.
In an article contributed to a Seoul-based daily, a former presidential chief of staff rightly says loyalty to the president-elect cannot be the overriding guide in the selection of her prime minister-designate. He insists the loyalty of the prime minister-designate, and that of ministers-designate for that matter, must directed toward the people rather than the president-elect.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is whether it is proper to select a candidate for prime minister from among former justices of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court and their former heads. Opponents make a convincing case against this practice, citing as a reason the risk of infringing upon the principle of separations of power. A prime minister hailing from those highest courts may pose a threat to their constitutionally guaranteed autonomy.