&#91EDITORIALS&#93The president’s mouthpiece

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[EDITORIALS]The president’s mouthpiece

The Blue House is reported to be thinking about replacing its spokeswoman, Song Kyoung-hee, whose erroneous briefing led to postponement of economic cooperation talks between North and South Korea. The opposition party is calling for measures to address a mistake involving a grave issue of national security. Ms. Song’s misstep was foreseeable. It is the product of a superficial approach to the briefer’s role, insufficient validation of a candidate’s ability to handle the press and the rush to shift to a new briefing system.
The spokeswoman essentially is the Blue House’s mouthpiece. Her words get heightened consideration because they represent the nation’s highest decision-making institution. The livelihood of an ordinary Korean citizen and the larger interest of the nation are equally touched by her tongue. Under the new administration, the briefer is the only channel for providing official government policy or decisions. To fill such an office, the briefer should be fully aware of the backdrop to issues, and must be fully knowledgeable about the ramifications that policies will have on various sectors of society. The position also requires an ability to think on one’s feet and to respond without hesitation to the barrage of journalists’ questions.
What this incident illustrates is that in adopting the briefing system of advanced foreign nations, the Blue House imported the hardware without giving attention to the software. Smaller incidents and problems that the spokeswoman triggered over the past month prove the point. We cannot but question if the incident came about because the new administration regarded its briefer merely as a person who makes announcements, and found someone to do that.
Ms. Song’s error and the resulting cancellation of the inter-Korean economic talks should not be cast as an issue of personal incompetence. There will likely be “Song Kyoung-hee II,” and “Song Kyoung-hee III” if the briefing system is not amended. The Blue House must devise a fundamental measure to ensure a smooth run for the new briefing system. To do that, it should review the problems that have arisen in the past month.
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