[EDITORIALS]All the president's men

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[EDITORIALS]All the president's men

While the public's outrage flares up over suspected irregularities involving the three sons of President Kim Dae-jung, the Blue House is getting cheered up over a series of promotions and new appointments. Since the ruling Millennium Democratic Party has selected Jin Nyum, the former deputy prime minister for finance and economy, as the party's candidate for the gubernatorial election in Gyeonggi province, the public has become disenchanted about the president's pledge to concentrate only on the economy and never to play politics during the rest of his tenure. There is such a big gap between the Blue House's perception of the latest reshuffle of key cabinet posts and the grassroots' sentiments about such events.

Suspected irregularities involving the president's three offspring have created an influence-peddling scandal unprecedented in scale in modern-day Korea. Some critics have argued convincingly that if the scandal had broken out in a foreign country it might have cost the president his job. Many blame the troubling situation President Kim finds himself in on the dysfunction of his aides who are in charge of keeping a close eye on the family and relatives of the chief executive. Meanwhile, the public has become annoyed at the recent developments in which the president's Blue House aides, who should be bitterly reflecting on their performance and taking responsibility for their deeds, are instead being rewarded with a series of promotions.

The appointment of Park Jie-won as the Blue House chief of staff had been widely anticipated. The selection of Mr. Park, who is known as the current administration's best political schemer, has intentionally or unintentionally causes many people to suspect the political considerations behind the latest reshuffle. Giving a key post to Mr. Park, who has often been a key figure behind a number of the scandals, may cause misgivings that are linked with the Blue House's strategy for the presidential election in December. Therefore, the new chief of staff should never do anything that might arouse suspicion. As Mr. Park has often stressed, he should convince the public that he will keep his promise never to be involved in politics. The position of the Blue House chief of staff is a very important job compared to his former position as a special political adviser to the president. If President Kim maintains political neutrality in the upcoming president election, and leaves no stones unturned in scandals involving his sons, Mr. Kim will be able to spend the rest of his tenure in office smoothly.

Also incomprehensible is the way that Lee Ki-ho was appointed a special presidential adviser. Mr. Lee recently stepped down as the senior presidential secretary for economic affairs when suspicions arose about his implication in a scandal that involved Lee Hyung-tack, the first lady's nephew. Although there is no evidence that he broke the law, the return of Mr. Lee just two months after he was fired only supports the argument against President Kim's controversial style of personnel appointments, in which he gives key posts to only those loyal to him. Creating the position of a special adviser also clashes with the current administration's principle of a "small government."

The advent of the Blue House staff led by Mr. Park means that the awkward division of labor between him and his predecessor, Jeon Yun-churl, has been normalized. That will increase Mr. Park's influence as the No. 2 man and, at the same time, put more responsibility and risk on his shoulders. Under such circumstances, the Blue House should shy away from politics and focus on assisting the president in concluding his rein in power.
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