Published : 2013-03-12 20:16
Updated : 2013-03-12 20:16
It has increased public concerns over the slack posture of the new government that dozens of military officials played golf over the weekend amid heightening tensions with North Korea. No excuse can be made for the military officials, including some generals, having enjoyed a round of golf at a time when they should have been on standby against growing threats from the North.
Pyongyang had threatened to stop abiding by the Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War from Monday, when South Korean and U.S. troops launched their annual joint drills. A Defense Ministry spokesman said that those who played at a military golf course in Seoul were not key commanders ordered to be on standby around the clock. His explanation fell short of easing concerns over the lax military posture. A golf course is by no means a place where any sensible military officers can be when the enemy forces are threatening to launch a “preemptive nuclear strike” and turn the land of their country into a “sea of fire.” Their thoughtless behavior has made the earlier emergency meeting President Park Geun-hye held with her key security aides appear less than convincing to the eyes of many South Koreans.
The presidential office should immediately undertake an inquiry into the inappropriate golf round. A wider check needs to be done into whether other military officials played golf at courses outside Seoul during the weekend.
The probe should be followed with due disciplinary measures to put military personnel on full alert befitting the grave security situation. Prompted by the case of the inconsiderate officers, the presidential office is moving to tighten discipline for all public service workers, instructing the Board of Audit and Inspection to strengthen scrutiny on lax working attitudes of civil servants.
It is evident that the delayed launch of Park’s inaugural Cabinet, which has been held hostage to a prolonged parliamentary standoff over her government reorganization plan, has put the civil service in a lethargic state. Two weeks after her inauguration, Park presided over her first Cabinet meeting Monday, with four of her 17 ministerial nominees still unable to attend.
The absence of her defense minister nominee from the session was conspicuous. The president is said to be planning to appoint Kim Byung-kwan, a former Army general facing criticism for a range of ethical lapses, as defense minister later this week despite objections from the opposition party, which had barred a National Assembly committee from adopting a bipartisan report at the end of his confirmation process. Park’s nominee for deputy prime minister and minister of strategy and finance is set to go through a parliamentary hearing Wednesday. Confirmation hearings on nominees for science and maritime affairs ministers can be held only after the parliament passes the government restructuring bill that includes the establishment of the two ministries. The formation of the full Cabinet line-up may be completed late this month at the earliest. It will take much longer before Park’s administration is set up to properly function as she is yet to appoint vice ministers of the 17 ministries and heads of 21 other central government agencies.
In a sense, the president may have to hold herself at least partly responsible for administrative functions having gone adrift well into the opening days of her presidency as she has not been so successful and efficient in making the right personnel choices and drawing support from the opposition party. Park and the leadership of the main opposition Democratic United Party are now urged to be more compromising and flexible in settling their differences to enable the new administration to go all out in tackling threats from the North and other urgent tasks facing the nation.
Their cooperation will be more needed in dealing with inter-Korean relations and pushing through Park’s election promises to improve people’s livelihoods, many of which the opposition shares similar views on. All public servants should also recognize that a transition period, especially when saddled with escalating security threats and deteriorating domestic problems, is not a time to neglect duties but to commit more to them. It is ― and should be ― anticipated that the country’s civil service will prove willing and capable of tighter self-discipline at a time of growing crisis.