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[Editorial] Rough transition

Outgoing, incoming power clashes in last days of Moon presidency

President Moon Jae-in criticized President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol again on Friday, 10 days before his retirement.

In personally answering an online public petition that opposed Yoon’s plan to relocate the presidential office from Cheong Wa Dae, he questioned whether Yoon should incur considerable expense by moving the office to a place other than a government building in Gwanghwamun. Earlier in a recent interview with a cable television channel, he revealed his dislike of the relocation, calling it “inappropriate and dangerous.”

Moon said the argument for relocating Cheong Wa Dae for better communication with the public was illogical. He criticized Yoon’s pushing for such a long-term undertaking without discussion.

However, his criticisms sound less convincing. In his presidential inaugural address, Moon made a similar promise to work in a government building in Gwanghwamun, to be a president who mingles with people. But ultimately, he gave up his relocation plan. Now he is criticizing Yoon for carrying out what he gave up.

Moon first opposed Yoon’s relocation plan, citing a “security gap,” but the issue was settled after he had a face-to-face meeting with Yoon and handled the related budget as the transition team demanded. But then he renewed his criticisms, which is seen as a political move to rally his support base ahead of the June 1 local elections.

Moon takes the side of the Democratic Party of Korea over the prosecution reform bills, which would strip the prosecution of most of its investigative power. The bills are criticized as a shield for Moon and figures on his side from investigations by prosecutors after his retirement. To rush the bills unilaterally on the back of its majority, the party even used shameless tricks such as an intentional defection from the party. It did not even hold a public hearing on the issue. Moon turned a blind eye to the undemocratic procedures the party undertook.

Its leaders demanded Moon promulgate the bills in his last Cabinet meeting on May 3, just six days before he retires. It aims to prevent Yoon from vetoing it after taking office. Moon is expected to do as the party demands.

Moon first expressed concerns about depriving the prosecution of investigative powers. But in retrospect, it seems to have been a charade. After National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug presented his arbitration plan, he expressed effective support for the bills, calling the arbitration plan “an outcome of parliamentary democracy.”

Kweon Seong-dong, floor leader of the People Power Party to which Yoon belongs, requested a meeting with President Moon to ask him to veto the bills, but there has been no response.

The Moon administration announced on Friday that it would lift the outdoor mask mandate.

Earlier, the presidential transition committee requested that the Moon administration let the soon-to-be-launched Yoon administration decide around later this month whether to lift the mandate.

It was a reasonable request, considering tens of thousands of people were still getting infected daily. Soon after the request, however, the Moon administration announced that the outdoor mask mandate would end starting Monday.

It is questionable if the Moon administration announced the measure because it wanted to show people that it overcame the pandemic within its term.

The Democratic Party boycotted confirmation hearings for Prime Minister nominee Han Duck-soo. Its lawmakers demanded Han submit a huge amount of data for vetting, some dating back about 40 years.

It is unclear when the Yoon administration will have a full lineup of its Cabinet ministers.

Moon and the Democratic Party are showing a bad temper in the last days of his presidency. They would not have displayed nerve like this if the party did not dominate the National Assembly.

Yoon’s presidential transition has been far from smooth due to clashes between the outgoing and incoming powers. At least until the next general elections in 2024, the Democratic Party will likely wield its sweeping majority to stymie the new government’s plans. To stop its legislative dictatorship, voters must make a wise choice in elections down the road.

By Korea Herald (khnews@heraldcorp.com)
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