Published : 2013-02-28 20:04
Updated : 2013-02-28 20:04
After several hectic days that followed her inauguration on Monday, President Park Geun-hye is now settling down to a new life in the Blue House, administering state affairs as head of state. She certainly has a pile of problems she has to address each day. She will also have to manage small and large crises occasionally.
Yet, she is far from institutionally well prepared to do her job properly, as evidenced by the canceling of a weekly Cabinet meeting and the absence of her key advisers at the first conference of senior presidential secretaries. If these anomalies are not rectified in a few weeks, President Park will risk losing momentum in the early days of her governance.
She had been scheduled to preside over a weekly conference of the State Council, better known as Cabinet, on Tuesday. But she canceled it, with her prime minister designate awaiting approval from the National Assembly. It was the first time in recent years for the weekly Cabinet meeting to be called off.
The State Council, chaired by the president, deliberates on “important policies that fall within the power of the executive,” as specified by the Constitution. It holds a conference each week.
Neither Park nor her aides offered an explanation why she canceled the meeting. Possibly, she had no issue that was required to be dealt with urgently. More likely, she wanted to get her message across that the opposition Democratic United Party was attempting to trip her up by delaying the approval of those she had selected for the Cabinet posts.
Either way, her decision did not put her in a favorable light, given what her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, did when he had the same problem five years ago. He went ahead with a Cabinet meeting though none of his designates had been approved yet. He probably wanted to demonstrate continuity in the administration of state affairs when he held a weekly meeting with the prime minister and ministers of the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration, who were to remain in office until their successors were confirmed by the National Assembly.
On Wednesday, she called her senior secretaries to a conference. What was most notable about the first meeting was the absence of Kim Jang-soo, a former minister of national defense, whom Park had selected as her top national security adviser. His appointment to the ministerial-level post that was yet to be established was pending the passage of a revision bill to the law on the organization of government agencies. Here again, Park was accusing the opposition of holding her reform policy hostage by putting off the passage of the bill.
But in fact, no less accountable were Park and her ruling Saenuri Party, who offered few concessions in negotiations with the opposition over the bill on a wide-ranging reorganization of government agencies.
The opposition party came up with 15 counterproposals when the ruling party submitted the bill to the National Assembly on Jan. 30. But it had since dropped all but one concerning the readjustment of functions between the Korea Communications Commission and the Ministry of Future Creation and Science, an agency to be set up under the bill.
Park demanded that broadcasting be divided into two categories, news reporting and non-news reporting, and put news reporting under the jurisdiction of the commission and non-news reporting under that of the new ministry. But was it necessary for Park to stake the bill’s passage on such a minor issue?
Her transition team claimed it was necessary to put non-broadcasters ― program providers and system operators ― under the supervision of the new ministry to promote the technology convergence of broadcasting and communications. But the opposition party claimed the commission was better positioned to ensure fairness and autonomy in broadcasting by keeping it as a whole under its jurisdiction. Simply put, the two sides were fighting over a not-so-vital matter concerning which should be given priority, promoting efficiency in technology development on one hand or ensuring fairness and autonomy on the other.
Even more misplaced was Park’s displeasure with the opposition party’s plan to put her ministerial nominees under the microscope during their confirmation hearings. But allegations of all types of ethical problems were hurled against Kim Byung-kwan, defense minister nominee, and some others. If any of them was to be rejected, it would be Park herself, not the opposition party, that should be held accountable.