President Moon Jae-in asked the Democratic Party of Korea on Tuesday to work with him to accomplish two overarching missions: reform and integration.
He vowed to eradicate longstanding evils on his campaign trail. These evils came to the fore through the influence-peddling scandal which led to the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye and the presidential by-election. Among the prime evils exposed in the scandal were the concentration of power on a few presidential aides and the avoidance of face-to-face meetings with other Cheong Wa Dae staff and Cabinet ministers.
Evils should be removed for a better society, but if the reform he means is the eradication of evils based on a dichotomous view that divides society into evils to eradicate and goods to eradicate the evil, he should take precautions.
What he views as evils may differ from what others think. Reform, which sees some define others as evils, runs the risk of turning into another evil. Moon pledged to create a special committee to abolish evils, by which he means those of past conservative governments. If the committee wields its authority to brand evils in its own way, it is prone to eradicate bona fide critics or dissidents as well as real evils.
The nation has been split between left and right, and young and old, as it has gone through political turbulences since the scandal broke in October. Now it is time to integrate the nation. For national integration, an open-mind and a willingness to listen to others would be the reasonable place to start.
Moon is not a candidate running for a party any more. He is the leader of the entire nation. The key to attaining integration through reform is in his hands. He needs to keep in mind how blind trust in just a few aides or friends and the lack of direct communication ruined the previous presidency.
The lineup of presidential aides and Cabinet ministers is the starting point and a significant part of the administration. The formation of the Cabinet and subsequent appointments in a wide range of state organizations should be made in the direction of integration, too. He nominated Gov. Lee Nak-yon of South Jeolla Province as prime minister on Wednesday. The first appointment since he took office should open the path to an equitable makeup of the Cabinet. An integrative Cabinet would include people from an unbiased pool of human resources.
Efforts for reform and integration lacking communication and cooperation will end up as a house of cards. Moon’s reform drive will face difficulties unless the people support it. Without the cooperation of opposition parties, the Moon administration cannot get its legislation through the National Assembly. A bill needs a minimum of 180 of the 300 parliamentary votes to become a law. The Democratic Party holds 120 seats. His visits to opposition parties on Wednesday to get his visions across and ask for their cooperation was the right move in that sense.
Moon’s efforts to integrate the nation will work if its members respond to them positively. Opposition parties should not oppose for the sake of opposition, but try to find as much as possible to agree on for the sake of the people.
As the presidential front runner, Moon made a lot of promises. Some of them appear to be infeasible, and some are feared to produce side effects, such as a heavy fiscal burden.
He needs to trim and reprioritize his pledges toward practicality and ensuring integration. There is no reason to push all his campaign promises at once.
The first thing he has to do for reform and integration is to listen not only to his staff and supporters, but also to his critics and the opposition.