The Korea Herald


[Editorial] Another misstep

Park’s surprise appointment of prime minister adds fuel to public fury

By 김케빈도현

Published : Nov. 2, 2016 - 15:23

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Is President Park Geun-hye working toward her own undoing? One cannot but raise the question as she, already devoid of effective leadership as the chief executive, keeps taking missteps that could drag her -- and the nation -- into a deeper quagmire.  

Park on Wednesday nominated Kim Byong-joon, a liberal professor who held key posts during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, as new prime minister.

Park also named Yim Jong-yong, head of the Financial Services Commission, as the new deputy prime minister and finance minister, and replaced the safety and public security minister.

The announcement, which caught even the ruling party by surprise, came on the heels of sacking the Blue House chief of staff and five of Park’s closest aides.

A presidential official said Park named Kim, who was Roh’s chief policy aide, in the belief that a Cabinet led by him would be able to meet the demand of the opposition and public for a neutral Cabinet.

But Park is mistaken if she thought that replacement of some of her close aides and installation of Kim as prime minister would allay the public fury over the Choi Soon-sil scandal that has overtaken the entire nation and brought her administration to a virtual standstill.

Most of all, Park made the decision to name Kim unilaterally, while both the ruling and opposition parties were still discussing what kind of new Cabinet should be put into place in order to defuse the leadership crisis prompted by the Choi scandal.

In fact, who will be the prime minister and how much power the president should delegate to the new Cabinet was the key issue of contention between the ruling and opposition parties.

Kim was one of the potential candidates for prime minister mentioned by ruling and opposition members alike, which obviously emboldened Park to nominate him without consulting the opposition.

But opposition parties were united in condemning what they called a “blitzkrieg” aimed at diverting public attention from the Choi scandal. Choo Mi-ae, leader of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, and Park Jie-won, interim leader of the People’s Party, aptly said that President Park has yet to come to her senses.

Park Jie-won went on to say his party will not sit idly by over Park’s “despicable act.” He said the growing public fury could mount increased public pressure for voluntary resignation and impeachment.

It is not the first time Park -- well known for her self-righteousness and obstinacy -- has resorted to such hardball politics and unilateralism. But this is not a normal time, either, with her approval ratings having plummeted into the single digits, as even those who voted for her in 2012 have called for her resignation or impeachment.

What Park should do -- instead of employing the political tactics she had when her approval ratings were running in the 60s and 70s -- is sincere soul-searching about why she let a woman without any official title meddle in state and presidential affairs and use her close relationship with the president for personal gain.

Based on the realization of what she did wrong, Park’s utmost job is to make sure the whole truth about the allegations against Choi is uncovered, preventing the crisis from further spiraling out of control. The unilateral appointment of Kim is another piece of evidence that she still is not reading the situation correctly. It is truly worrisome that we have to be wary of what more missteps she could make.