Cheong Wa Dae mulls replacing presidential aides

08-Nov-2019 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 8:46 AM Print This Post

In a country where the head of state is elected for a single five-year term with no possibility of re-election, as is the case for presidents of South Korea, the third year has always been a challenge.

Cheong Wa Dae is mulling replacing senior presidential aides, amid growing public dissatisfaction over President Moon Jae-in’s handling of state affairs in the wake of an alleged corruption scandal involving former Justice minister Cho Kuk, the lack of communication between presidential aides and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), and few signs of progress in the denuclearisation talks between North Korea and the United States.

In addition there seems to be no way for Tokyo and Seoul to come to an agreement over rulings by the South Korean Supreme Court on the wartime labour issue.

“We’ve acknowledged the need to replace senior aides and some Cabinet members. Because the ruling party can’t afford to lose in next year’s general election, in order to keep key policies on track, we do need fresh faces. But before making changes, we have to analyse the situation thoroughly to see how the public will react,” a presidential aide said Thursday.

President Moon has entered his third year in office after being elected in May 2017. His approval rating during the first week of November was 44.2 percent, down 3.3 percentage points from a week earlier, according to data released Thursday by Realmeter, which conducts regular weekly tracking polls. The dissatisfaction rate was 53.1 percent, up 4 percentage points over the same period.

Immediately after his election in May 2017, Moon’s approval rating was a stunning 84 percent.

“A slowdown in the economy, the ongoing bilateral spat with Japan and no actual progress in the President’s Korea Peace Process is having a negative impact on Cheong Wa Dae,” a DPK lawmaker told The Korea Times.

“But a bigger problem is that senior presidential aides don’t speak to the President directly on diverse pending issues which need which to be addressed. In addition they are failing to utilise backchannels for open discussions with members of the ruling party.”

“The aides should also present Cheong Wa Dae’s proposals to opposition party leaders from time-to-time to persuade them to help in addressing key political issues. But they never have open talks about the economy and other sensitive issues,” the lawmaker added.

He noted that the President and his administration have also failed to come forward with official stances on major issues, triggering many groundless rumours.

Presidential chief of staff Noh Young-min has belatedly accepted this and said Cheong Wa Dae has begun a comprehensive review of the presidential office’s structure and function.

A small-scale Cabinet reshuffle is also likely. As the President Moon accepted the resignation of the scandal-hit Cho, Moon has to name a new justice minister. DPK officials said senior ruling party members have also “unofficially” asked Cheong Wa Dae to allow prime minister Lee Nak-yon to return to the party ahead of the general election in April next year.

Regarding the latter, the prime minister’s Office said: “The DPK is hoping Lee will take a leading role in the party’s election campaign. In order to avoid the lame duck label for President Moon with his term running down, the ruling party wants Lee to contribute to a victory.”

Former President Park Geun-hye began to see huge public discontent during her third year when a huge political scandal began to unfurl, leading to her eventual impeachment.

“President Moon’s aides need to speak out to the President. Moon and his administration are losing their luster,” said Hong Sung-gul, a professor at Kookmin University.

President Moon is considering holding a live question and answer session with the public, next week, to be aired by the country’s major terrestrial broadcasters. He will respond to questions about his biggest agenda items ― reviving the economy, achieving a lasting peace on the peninsula and handling internal affairs.


Category: Korea

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