New Health and Welfare Minister Moon Hyung-pyo took office Monday with little political capital to use to persuade opposition parties to accept controversial pension schemes and downscaled welfare policies.
The main opposition Democratic Party fiercely opposed the appointment of the former government researcher, raising doubts about his ethical standards and leadership competence.
The 57-year-old minister has been accused of using a corporate credit card for private purposes at a restaurant in Gangnam that is suspected of hiring under-age hostesses.
The U.S.-educated pension expert faces a daunting task to deal with a wide range of contentious issues, such legislation for the watered down basic pension bill, introduction of telemedicine and enhanced medical coverage by state insurance programs.
Questions remain over how Moon, who has no political experience, would be able to win over the opposition party, which has boycotted the parliament partly in protest of Park’s plan to appoint Moon.
During an inauguration ceremony Monday evening, Moon said he felt “a great responsibility and sense of duty.” He promised that his expertise in pensions would help him lead the nation’s overall welfare policy.
Moon earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and built his academic career at Korea Development Institute. He also served as chairman of the pension reform committee under the ministry.
The new minister also has to resolve a growing discontent within the ministry.
Moon was named in late October to replace Chin Young who resigned in September after openly saying he had a disagreement with Cheong Wa Dae over Park’s scaled down pension program for senior citizens.
The abrupt resignation of the former health minister has frustrated many officials, sources said. Not only Chin but also the entire group was hurt by Cheong Wa Dae’s unilateral decision to press ahead with curtailing the scale of the new pension plan, they added.
Moon, however, is unlikely to dare to oppose Cheong Wa Dae. Moon said he is an advocate of the scaled down new pension and it looks “reasonable and feasible” judging from his “academic view.”
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)