Published : 2013-02-05 20:16
Updated : 2013-02-05 20:16
The possibility looms large that President-elect Park Geun-hye will be unable to set up her Cabinet well into the opening days of her presidency. With less than three weeks to go until her inauguration on Feb. 25, she has yet to make personnel selections for all key posts in the Cabinet and the presidential secretariat.
The resignation of her first prime minister nominee amid allegations of ethical lapses last week has derailed her timetable for forming the incoming administration, which would otherwise have also been pressed for time. The parliamentary vote to approve the prime minister’s nomination can hardly be held on Feb. 26 as agreed on by the major political parties, considering it usually takes a month to complete the process, including a two-day confirmation hearing. The appointments of 17 Cabinet ministers, who should be recommended by the prime minister under the law and go through parliamentary hearings, are also unlikely to be made immediately after Park takes office. In the worst case, the formation of her Cabinet may be delayed well into next month.
What further complicates the work to form the Cabinet is the growing controversy over government restructuring plans drawn up by her transition team, especially the transfer of trade-related functions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to a commerce ministry. In a rare move, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan raised a public objection to the plan during a parliamentary session Monday, prompting an angry reaction from transition committee officials. It remains unclear whether bills related to overhauling the government structure will be passed through parliament on Feb. 14 as scheduled.
It is not beyond the bounds of possibility for the ministers appointed by outgoing President Lee Myung-bak to attend first Cabinet meetings presided over by Park or her prime minister.
The delay in the formation of the Cabinet may lead to a loss in momentum for pushing through her major campaign promises during the early phase of her presidency. It would also make it difficult for her Cabinet members to develop teamwork before undertaking the thorny tasks ahead of them.
The need for an early formation of the incoming government, especially security-related positions, has become more urgent amid growing concerns that North Korea could conduct a nuclear test anytime soon, posing a grave security challenge Seoul should cope with in close cooperation with neighboring powers.
While briefed on North Korea’s recent moves by members of the transition team’s subcommittee on foreign affairs and security Monday, Park stressed the need for measures to ensure the people would not be worried about Pyongyang’s threats of provocative acts. It should be reminded that a delay in forming the next government makes the people more anxious.
To facilitate the work, Park needs to check again her way of making personnel appointments and, if necessary, change it. Last week’s withdrawal by Kim Yong-joon, the head of the transition team, from his nomination as prime minister revealed problems with the secretive and uncommunicative methods she has adhered to in making personnel decisions.
It may be natural for concerns to grow that Park puts too much weight on confidentiality in personnel appointments, leading to candidates not being properly vetted. She also has limited the pool of candidates by preventing her associates from making recommendations, though the measure seems to be aimed at barring them from wielding excessive power.
Her personnel management style, which might have been instrumental when she served as a party leader, proves hard to be applied to the formation of government. The trial and errors she has experienced so far may be meaningful, if she learns a lesson from them and keeps it in mind throughout her five-year presidency.