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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 12)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:09 April 12, 2022

Lack of diversity
Consider diverse factors to achieve national unity

President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol announced his picks for eight Cabinet members Sunday, tapping Rep. Choo Kyung-ho of the People Power Party (PPP) as deputy prime minister and finance minister. Yoon nominated Lee Chang-yang, a professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), as trade, industry and energy minister, and former Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong as minister of land, infrastructure and transport. Retired Lt. Gen. Lee Jong-sup, who served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was picked as defense minister.

Many of the nominees were chosen among those who supported Yoon during the presidential campaign and at the transition committee. Choo, Lee and Won, who are noted for their business-friendly policies, are expected to focus on economic growth and job creation. While unveiling the list of the new Cabinet members, Yoon said, "We chose the figures who will best lead the respective areas."

Yoon has been stressing the expertise and capabilities of ministerial nominees without giving consideration to their gender, hometowns, age and academic backgrounds, in stark contrast to previous governments which focused on such factors in naming Cabinet members. Yoon seems to value the competence of ministerial candidates more than other qualifications, because of the pressing need to tackle daunting challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, growing security threats and a looming economic slowdown amid soaring inflation.

However, Yoon should have paid more heed to regional and gender factors for the formation of a well-balanced Cabinet to promote national unity. Among the eight ministerial nominees, five are from the southeastern Gyeongsang provinces without any candidate from the southwestern Jeolla provinces except for Prime Minister-nominee Han Duck-soo, who hails from North Jeolla Province.

Rep. Park Hong-keun, the new floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), criticized Yoon for raising eyebrows with the Cabinet nominations that lacked standard, principle and philosophy. He dismissed the selection as rewarding those who helped Yoon win the election.

Earlier, criticism arose over the nomination of Han as prime minister, who was dubbed an "old boy" unqualified to lead a "digital platform government." To offset such demerits of Han, the new Cabinet members should have been picked among experts who can inject fresh air into officialdom. The ministerial nominees' average age is 60.5 and most of them are male and graduates of Seoul National University. This shows a lack of diversity.

Though Yoon pledged to focus on a candidate's ability in picking Cabinet members, Won, for instance, has been the object of skepticism for his alleged lack of expertise in the area of housing and construction. As Yoon put it, it is natural to put top priority on competence. Such a quality is necessary, but not sufficient to carry out state affairs properly.

Policymakers need to adjust conflicting interests among different regions, generations, genders and diverse groups in our society. That is why the president-elect should put emphasis on enhancing national unity by forging cooperative ties with opposition forces including the DPK. He must boost diversity in his administration by mobilizing well-qualified figures, including young men and women with diverse professional track records and backgrounds.

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