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Close Roh friend named to key Blue House post

Aug 27,2003
The new secretary for Blue House general affairs is Jung Sang-moon, a 57-year-old auditor with the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the Blue House announced yesterday. Mr. Jung, formerly a Grade IV director of audit and inspection, was promoted by one notch on Friday, in preparation for the Blue House appointment.
He is a native of Gimhae, South Gyeongsang province, and a close friend of President Roh Moo-hyun, the two having studied together for two years to prepare for their bar examinations.
An anecdote attesting to their friendship dates from the period immediately following Mr. Roh’s victory in the 2002 presidential election. Mr. Roh called the Seoul Metropolitan Government and asked for Mr. Jung. The official who answered the phone asked who was calling, and Mr. Roh answered, “This is President-elect Roh Moo-hyun.” The Seoul city official was all the more startled after he transferred the call. He heard Mr. Jung pick up the phone and say, “Hey, Moo-hyun!”
“We almost fainted,” Seoul city officials recalled.
Mr. Chung fills a vacancy left by Choi Do-sul, who resigned to prepare to run for a National Assembly seat next year. He is also very close to Moon Jae-in, the Blue House senior secretary for civil affairs, Lee Ho-cheol, a Blue House civil affairs secretary, and people identified as the “Busan associates,” who are close to Mr. Roh.
Although the role of the general affairs secretary has diminished, the post still calls for its holder to act as a close assistant to the president.
Mr. Jung’s life has many similarities to the president’s. His last formal schooling was at Garak Middle School in Gimhae. He then obtained degrees through self-study, and took the nation’s bar exam, but failed. Changing his life’s course, he took the Grade VII civil service exam. While the two friends were studying for the national bar, Mr. Jung and Mr. Roh briefly did business together, selling reading desks.
Mr. Jung worked for South Gyeongsang’s local government for 25 years before transferring to the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Because the office of the auditor is a prime post in the Seoul city government, Mr. Jung has earned accolades of being a “self-made man.” He was appointed in August 2002, handpicked by Mayor Lee Myung-bak, whose affiliation was with the opposition Grand National Party. The mayor gave Mr. Jung high marks for industriousness, and for being a team player with excellent ability.
Sources with inside knowledge of the appointment process said that Mr. Jung was, at one time, considered for the post of personal Blue House secretary to Mr. Roh to replace Yang Gil-seung, who recently resigned over a scandal involving his being entertained at the expense of a criminal suspect.
But the Blue House decided that a former auditor would be a better candidate for the post of general affairs secretary, and would restore order and discipline to the Blue House in that capacity, insiders said.


by Kang Min-seok


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