&#91EDITORIALS&#93The job of prime minister

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[EDITORIALS]The job of prime minister

Moon Hee-sang, the Blue House chief of staff, raised eyebrows when he said he had “greatly scolded” Prime Minister Goh Kun. The Korean Constitution confers on the prime minister, at the president’s order, the right to supervise government agencies, according to Clause 2 of Article 86. The days of the “imperial presidency” are gone, so how can a Blue House secretary reprimand the prime minister? That is not all. A figure known as the “king” of Blue House secretaries is under fire for intervening in just about every matter, irrespective of jurisdiction.
President Roh Moo-hyun pledged in his election campaign to give the prime minister more accountability. He eliminated senior Blue House secretaries who had overseen certain government ministries. But the administration’s first three months demonstrated that the Blue House remains at the forefront of any issue, and Mr. Goh and the cabinet are nowhere to be seen. When the press criticized the vacuum in the prime minister’s role, Mr. Roh said, “Look more closely at the work of the prime minister. He is actually doing quite a lot.” Then his chief of staff publicly said that he had scolded Mr. Goh. What can he possibly do when both the president and the Blue House secretaries treat him in this manner?
Prime Minister Goh is not free of fault. As Mr. Moon said, the Blue House has forsaken its powers to coordinate the government agencies, so why is he hesitating to cut out a role for himself? It is not easy for Mr. Goh to precede Mr. Roh in taking initiatives or to read the president’s intentions. But why do we need a prime minister to cater to a president’s policy line and whim? It is irresponsibility itself for the prime minister, who was supposed to solve the truckers’ strike while Mr. Roh was in the United States but was end-run by Blue House secretaries, to complain of Blue House intervention.
Was it humility or servility when Mr. Goh offered to preside over the twice weekly policy coordination meeting with the Blue House chief of staff? The prime minister should not air his gripes behind the scenes, but do his job with dignity. That is the way to aid the president, as well as to keep his own honor.
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