South Korean President Moon Jae-in is preparing to undertake a medium scaled cabinet reshuffle as early as next week. Indeed, President Moon is forming de facto the second stage of the cabinet a little before 16 months since his inauguration. This is to gain a new driving force in state affairs at a situation where the economy is stagnating with the worst employment crisis.
In order to achieve such driving force, the cabinet reform needs to clarify the target or blueprint of state affairs. We hoped that Moon would send a message through this cabinet reshuffle that he is done with policy experiments and will focus on public welfare, the economy, integration, and coexistence.
If the president doesn't want this reshuffle end up in a mere patchwork of turning over the current situation, he should apply the principle of thinning out incompetent ministers and code ministers based on their performance over the past one year and three months, rather than changing people by designating the scope of cabinet reshuffle in advance. Ministers, who regard administration as an experiment tool of their personal ideology, should no longer engage in state affairs.
A case in point is Education Minister Kim Sang-kon who revealed his incompetence in education administration not to mention shifting issues related to college entrance to the Public Opinion Committee. The administrative chaos incurred by Employment and Labor Minister Kim Young-joo by intensifying problems such as minimum wage issue that lost balance as if she were labor union leader not to mention the decision to disclose the worksite arrangement plan of Samsung Electronics, should not be left untouched. Environment Minister Kim Eun-kyung also appears to be an incompetent as she showed excessively complacent attitude and low expertise during the recyclable waste crisis. As mutiny controversy over the commander’s official document showed, Defense Minister Song Young-moo already lost leadership as the head of defense as he tried to shift responsibility and used inappropriate language. If he were to be reappointed once again just because he is actively participating in reconciliation between the two Koreas and that it is difficult to find a successor, the morale of the military will likely to wither even more. It is, however, the economic team that needs an overall rearrangement more than any other sectors. The reason why the Moon Jae-in administration is renewing the worst economic grade, unable to shift its direction, even when it is facing the aggressive wave of side effects from income-oriented growth experiment is because those working for the administration are still lined up in major positions at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. If President Moon Jae-in desires to escape the economic crisis with innovative growth and regulation reform as its engine, he needs to change his economic team with competent people with convictions and propulsive attitude or change the lineup of Cheong Wa Dae's Office of Policy.
The cabinet reform needs to become an opportunity to transfer the path of state affairs backed by integration and reconciliation. It is crucial to give tension to the government as a whole and create an atmosphere where ministers are all evaluated with their performance. To this end, a dramatic reshuffle is essential. The National Assembly’s hearing may pose as a burden to expand the scope of such reshuffle but this problem will be resolved if people who were to be appointed can be accepted by both public and opposition parties. It is hoped that President Moon can demonstrate a leadership of national integration through the first ministerial reshuffle.