The incoming and outgoing administrations are still engaged in confrontation, failing to forge cooperative relations to tackle crucial issues during the transition period.
A case in point is the high-profile clash over the recent appointment of Park Doo-sun as CEO of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. The relocation of the presidential office is also a matter fraught with friction and mistrust. Similarly, both sides wrangle over the disclosure of protocol costs for the first lady Kim Jung-sook.
The continued disputes, however, are feared to undermine the country’s ability to filter out priority issues. Inter-Korean relations, for instance, plunged to a precarious level at the weekend when Kim Yo-jong, the influential sister of North Korea’s leader, harshly criticized South Korea’s Defense Minister Suh Wook over his “preemptive strike” comment.
Outside of the Korean Peninsula, the war in Ukraine is prompting a new wave of inflation, sending energy prices surging and clogging supply chains through the global economy.
An increase in energy prices, volatile exchange rates and higher interest rates are also forecast to put more pressure on the trouble-laden Korean economy, still hurt by the protracted COVID-19 pandemic. Fears over stagflation are deepening, while the domestic real estate market is likely to enter a phase of volatility this year once a new set of policies pledged by President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol are implemented.
For all the issues that really matter, however, the emotional hostility between the Moon Jae-in administration and Yoon’s transition team shows no sign of abating.
Last week, the transition team said it would ask the state auditor to investigate whether there has been any wrongdoing over the appointment of Park Doo-sun as head of DSME, a local shipbuilder under government control.
Transition committee deputy spokesperson Won Il-hee called the appointment an “irrational and shameless move” and an “abuse of power” by the outgoing government. Explaining that Park is a college alumnus of the younger brother of President Moon, Won suggested there might be a separate person who made the appointment.
Park Soo-hyun, senior secretary for public communications, struck back, calling Won’s remarks “insulting.” Park said the Moon administration “has never been involved in personnel appointments of private companies” and demanded an apology from the transition team.
Whether the current administration has “never” involved itself in such affairs, especially concerning quasi-public companies, is a question that should be verified later. The transition team’s claim over Park’s appointment deserves closer scrutiny as well, as he has built up his career at DSME over the past 36 years, securing support from both employees and the labor union.
Such a raw verbal exchange based on allegations between the incoming and outgoing administrations does not help the nation tackle the serious problems at hand. It is regretful that all the discord came even after President Moon and President-elect Yoon held their first official meeting that lasted for a record 2 hours and 51 minutes last Monday and agreed to cooperate with each other for the smooth transition of power.
Some critics argue that both sides are sticking to hostile positions to solidify their supporter bases ahead of the forthcoming local elections in June. But the logic is flawed. Voters -- and the public -- want the government, be it liberal or conservative, to work on critical matters such as the economic impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea’s saber-rattling, worsening economic indicators and the omicron-led pandemic.
Instead of finding fault with each other, the incoming and outgoing administrations should realize what matters most and work together for the nation.