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[Editorial] Gravity of transition

Ahn, chief of presidential transition, faces a slew of challenges

As the bitter presidential election marred by scandals and mudslinging is now over, what follows is a crucial transition period that will shape key policies and initiatives for the new administration led by President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol.

Yoon appointed Ahn Cheol-soo, chairman of the People’s Party, as chief of the presidential transition committee, an organization that will handle the transition of power from the Moon Jae-in administration.

Ahn’s appointment came as no surprise, as he had dropped out of the presidential race at the last minute to declare his support for Yoon. Other key committee members include Rep. Kwon Young-se as vice chairman of the committee, former Jeju Island Gov. Won Hee-ryong as the chief of a planning division, former head of the Democratic Party of Korea Kim Han-gil as the head of the national unity committee and Kim Byong-joon, former interim head of the Liberty Korea Party, a predecessor of Yoon’s People Power Party, as the chief of the committee on balanced development.

The transition team will be made up of seven standing subcommittees, as well as three special committees on national unity, balanced development and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In particular, the three special committees under the transition team are expected to play important roles envisioned by President-elect Yoon, as the election laid bare deep-rooted regionalism that could, if left unmitigated, derail many of the new initiatives in the next five years.

Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo confronts a set of challenges that will shape not only the transition committee’s operations, but also his political career. Speculation is mounting that Ahn, if he handles his job properly, could be appointed as the first prime minister of the new administration.

Aside from Ahn’s political fate, the stakes are higher than ever. Both expectations and concerns about the transition committee are on the rise, as so much friction and antagonism was revealed during the election, while distrust of politicians and in politics in general were also heightened.

Before the inauguration, Ahn is to steer the committee to filter out essential election pledges and present a clear blueprint for the incoming administration, while discarding unrealistic promises.

On Monday, Ahn outlined the five key tasks facing the incoming government with Yoon scheduled to take office on May 10. The tasks are the restoration of fairness, rule of law and democracy, paving the way for future sources of income and jobs, balanced regional development, building a sustainable nation and national unity.

The task of balanced regional development deserves special attention. During the election campaign, Yoon did not offer a strong vision on balanced development, a sensitive topic that has long divided the nation along with contrasting ideological camps.

In contrast, Ahn often stressed the importance of balanced regional development, saying that it should be the “spirit of the times.” Ahn should help the transition committee come up with specific measures that will address the longstanding sources of regionalism amid worries over the lopsided development.

Ahn’s team also has to carefully approach the fate of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, another hot-button controversy that is feared to accelerate gender disputes. On Sunday, Yoon suggested he would push ahead with his election pledge to abolish the ministry in favor of a new state agency to handle human rights violations and unfairness in society.

But a forceful implementation of the election pledge, which has come under fire from civic groups and women voters, could backfire in an unexpected way.

The presidential transition team is urged to come up with viable policy options on key issues for President-elect Yoon -- a task that is too important to overlook for the nation’s future.

By Korea Herald (
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