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Moon and Yoon off to rocky start in transition

Fissures emerge over personnel changes, ex-President Lee’s pardon

March 16, 2022 - 14:12 By Shin Ji-hye
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol makes his way to the Financial Supervisory Service training center in Tongui-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, on Wednesday, after the luncheon meeting with President Moon Jae-in was canceled. (Yonhap)
The first luncheon between President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol was canceled about four hours before they were to sit down together, with the transition getting off to a rocky start.

This is the first case in which a meeting between the incumbent president and president-elect was canceled after plans were made public.

“We decided to reschedule the meeting because working-level consultations have not been completed,” a Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday. “The consultation at the working level will continue.”

Yoon’s spokesperson Kim Eun-hye also said at a briefing in Yeouido in the morning that both sides agreed to not disclose details behind the reason for the postponement.

Moon and Yoon were scheduled to have a private lunch where they would discuss several issues, including pardons for ex-President Lee Myung-bak, a COVID-19-related supplementary budget and North Korea’s missile provocations.

However, a day before the meeting, a war of nerves between the sides intensified.

Cheong Wa Dae expressed displeasure at Yoon’s decision to abolish the post of senior secretary for civil affairs at his presidential office.

An official from the presidential office said it “does not seem appropriate to use what the current government has not done as a basis for abolishing the office,” after Yoon said that the office is “an organization that controls the political opposition of the previous governments and conducts secret investigations on the public.”

They were also at odds over the authority to appoint top officials.

Yoon had asked Cheong Wa Dae to consult his team on personnel appointments for public institutions, but Cheong Wa Dae hinted that it would continue to exercise its right for any personnel changes.

A senior official of the presidential office clarified with reporters Tuesday that Moon’s term of office continues until May 9.

“There was a precedent of consulting the next government on the appointment of agencies such as the prosecutor general and the National Police Agency, but the rest were never discussed,” the official said.

At the end of March, the terms of office for Bank of Korea Gov. Lee Ju-yeol and some Board of Audit and Inspection members will come to an end.

Regarding the appointment of Lee’s successor, the official said because the governor’s term will be completed during Moon’s tenure, it is natural for the Moon administration to take charge.

In addition, Yoon’s intention to place former President Lee’s amnesty as a major agenda item for the meeting put Cheong Wa Dae under pressure, an official said.

A senior Cheong Wa Dae official said the meeting was supposed to be a place to congratulate Yoon, but became an opportunity for him to “get results.” It is “a great burden” on the working team, he said.

Jang Sung-chul, a professor at Daegu Catholic University, said in a CBS radio interview that Yoon’s insistence on seeking a pardon for former President Lee “must have put a little pressure on Moon.”