President Moon Jae-in said Monday, “I ask the National Assembly to cooperate so that the government can be normalized as soon as possible.”
This remark came at the end of his first policy speech to the National Assembly. That was all he said regarding the confirmation of his nominees during his visit to the assembly.
Moon was expected to call on opposition floor leaders to cooperate with him on the confirmation of his nominees during a meeting with them at Speaker Chung Sye-kyun’s office before delivering the speech.
However, Chung Woo-taik, the floor leader of the largest opposition Liberty Korea Party, boycotted the meeting in protest against the president’s choice of nominees.
According to Moon’s spokesperson Park Soo-hyun, the president neither mentioned the confirmation of nominees at the meeting nor appealed for cooperation.
On the same day, confirmation hearing committees failed to adopt reports on Kim Sang-jo and Kim Yi-su, who were tapped as chairman of the Fair Trade Commission and chief justice of the Constitutional Court, respectively.
Kang Kyung-wha will likely fail to be confirmed as minister of foreign affairs Wednesday. She was the most controversial among the three nominees. All three opposition parties regard her as unqualified.
Moon has not hinted at withdrawing any nominee yet. The fact that he appealed briefly for cooperation at the end of his speech and that he did not mention confirmation when he met the floor leaders gives the impression that he will stick to his guns. On Tuesday, Moon appointed Kim as chairman of the commission, though a confirmation report on him was not adopted.
A sign that he does not seem to care about opposition parties when it comes to nominations emerged a day earlier.
All five minister candidates he chose Sunday helped him win the presidential election. They took on key roles in his campaign. The appointments are seen as tokens of gratitude.
Moon had pledged impartial choices for senior posts in a bid to integrate the nation, but his nominations so far are far from impartiality. Biased nominations will hurt national unity and produce slanted policies.
Voters expected Moon to differ from past presidents because he was elected on promises to eliminate the accumulated evils of the past governments, including the one-sided appointments of supporters. Regrettably, his nominations show he is no different.
In nominating Kim Sang-jo, Kim Yi-su and Kang, Moon even broke his promise not to fill posts with those involved in false address registration, military duty evasion, tax evasion, real estate speculation and plagiarism.
The qualifications of the five minister candidates announced Sunday are questionable. Song Young-moo, national defense minister nominee, was involved in fake address registration.
Cho Dae-yop, labor minister nominee, has a record of driving under the influence.
The presidential office disclosed the illegalities, but prior revelation does not mean they are not problems.
Kim Sang-kon, deputy prime minister and education minister nominee, outlined Moon’s controversial education pledges. His populist policies as a provincial education superintendent from 2009 to 2014, such as the provision of free lunches for all students and ban on corporal punishment, caused side effects such as an inefficient allocation of budgets and damage to teachers’ authority.
The president needs officials who agree with his vision, but it is problematic to choose from those who helped him win the election.
Moon has yet to fill many positions in executive and judiciary branches, public enterprises and agencies under their control. If they are staffed only with his supporters, state management will lose balance.
Instead of asking opposition lawmakers to cooperate with him, he should try harder to cooperate with them.
An attitude of “I decide and you follow” should be avoided. That is the opposite of the cooperative politics Moon vowed to seek.
Seeking cooperation from the majority opposition is inevitable. Moon and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea need to offer justifications or concessions for cooperation.
Moon promised in his inaugural address to be a president for all, not only for his supporters. He should accept that not all his nominees may be confirmed. He should also refrain from appointing individuals as a form of repayment for their contributions to his election victory.