[FOUNTAIN]Connections Still Trump Ability

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[FOUNTAIN]Connections Still Trump Ability

Richard Weaver showed up at the inauguration of President George W. Bush on Jan. 20 and approached the newly sworn-in president to shake hands. The man was a nondenominational Christian minister who had a standing room-only pass, nothing that should have gotten him so close to the president. The Secret Service was understandably embarrassed. The man had pulled the same stunt four year ago in 1997 at President Clinton's second inaugural. During questioning by the Secret Service, he credited God for the ability to pass through security and into a restricted area.

In 1977, there was a similar incident of breached security during President Jimmy Carter's term. The president was in the Oval Office talking with an aide when a man appeared by the window and asked where he could meet Mark Siegel, another aide at the White House. When President Carter gave him the directions, he coolly walked away. The man would later be identified as a freelance writer visiting Siegel. The pass he held, however, was nothing that should have gotten him to the Oval Office window.

On May 13, 1930, a well-dressed man entered the White House through the front door, unstopped by the police officers guarding the entrance. He managed to find his way to the dinning room and interrupt President Herbert Hoover's dinner. He turned out to be a curious sightseer. The incident prompted big changes in White House security.

There may seem to be something romantic about professional bodyguards, but that is perhaps only in the movies. The job of protecting a VIP is that of unending tension. One mistake could turn an entire flawless track record to nothing.

Closer to home, all the officers guarding the candidates in the 1997 presidential race no doubt did their best to follow their code of separating personal feelings and public duties. But the outcome of the election would provide something vastly different for the officers guarding the respective candidates. The National Police Agency data showed all 17 officers who were assigned to candidate Kim Dae-jung were promoted to higher ranks. Of the 17 guards for candidate Lee Hoi-chang, just 5 have been promoted. These were not private bodyguards but police officers who were doing their very public jobs. It just shows how deep the unwritten law of connections runs through our society.

We have a presidential election next year. From what happened to the guards in the last election, it will not be surprising if the guards next year are thinking about where the person they are guarding will end up, rather than about doing their job right.



The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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