[NOTEBOOK]It’s who you say you knowRecently a man who spelled his name similarly to President Roh Moo-hyun was representing himself as one of the president’s cousins and was getting free drinks at a local bar. But the civil affairs bureau of the Blue House caught the man, who was reported by the bar’s owner. The misrepresented cousin may be arrested soon.
There are a lot of cases in which people have pretended to be close relatives of the president, and it has to do in part because many in the Roh family people use “hyun” as part of their first names, following a tradition. There is a secretary at the Blue House who has an uncommon family name. He has been getting a lot of phone calls and visits from people saying that they would love to get to know him because they share the same last name.
On Monday, the new administration will have been in office 56 days, which is typically when an administration’s power begins to show itself. There are lots of happenings that cannot be overlooked. A Blue House official’s wife consulted a real estate broker about moving to another building. The broker asked if her husband were a senior official at the Blue House. The wife looked puzzled until the broker explained that he had acquired the information from a police investigator, who was an acquaintance.
People contact senior officials and Blue House workers in even more manipulative and subtler ways. Another secretary at the Blue House had lunch with a man who was not close with him, at a Korean restaurant. The meal was 25,000 won ($21) per person. The man pulled out 50,000 won and gave it to the secretary for taxi fare. The official refused to take the money.
Another man showed up at the Blue House with a box of orange juice because the man felt he knew a staffer back in school. The staff member refused to take juice. He said if he did, he would eventually want something bigger and better.
Another senior official in the presidential office said he had a hard time saying no because a woman, who said she had once set up a blind date with him, kept asking him to meet her.
Blue House officials are literally surrounded by all kinds of indecent proposals, temptations and requests. Lee Ho-cheol, the civil affairs official, received a phone call from a customs officer stating that Mr. Lee’s sesame was ready. Mr. Lee asked the officer what he meant by sesame and the officer hung up on him. Later, it turned out that a man had been representing Mr. Lee and asking the customs officer to send him sesame. The man was eventually arrested.
The new government should care about the economically unstable situation of newly recruited Blue House officials because they are paid minimum amounts compared with their career civil servant colleagues with more experience. When a river bank is flooded, the amount of damage reaches up into the hundreds of billions won. It’s the same when the country is overrun by corrupt officials.
by Choi Hoon
The writer is a reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.