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‘Talk big,’ Roh tells inexperienced aides

Mar 08,2003
President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday detailed his plans to reform government operations, opening a two-day debate with his cabinet and Blue House senior secretaries.
Mr. Roh gave some advice to his cabinet members, most of whom lack extensive government experience.
The president said ministers should be aggressive and talk big in order to develop enthusiasm among civil servants. “You should encourage civil servants to come up with ideas,” said President Roh. “Just talk big that you will realize their ideas no matter what.”
He said that civil servants should not be discouraged by their seniors who lack determination to push ministry projects forward. He told his ministers how he got government funds when he served as minister of maritime affairs and fisheries.
For ministers to become skilled arbitrators, Mr. Roh said, they should not be afraid to deal directly with the interested parties. He told participants how he had calmed a rally of fishermen that turned into a fist fight between ministry officials and fishermen. He refused to duck out by the back door, as his subordinates advised. “The fishermen became quiet after I confronted them directly,” he said.
He also advised his ministers to be more tolerant of mistakes committed out of good intentions. “But those who made big mistakes should not be forgiven,” Mr. Roh said.
Mr. Roh said that although many people know him as an intolerant person, he pleaded with National Assembly lawmakers to save a subordinate from being fired, when he served as minister.
The participants burst into laughter when President Roh said he and Park Bong-hem, minister of planning and budget, went home wearing each other’s shoes after having a drink together.
Thirty-eight cabinet members and Blue House staff members attended the debate.


by Kang Min-seok, Seo Seung-wook


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