[GLOBAL EYE]Roh needs a team that performsPresident Roh Moo-hyun said some time ago that he was convinced that the North Korean nuclear problem would be solved peacefully within the framework of multi-party talks. I don’t know where his conviction came from. I guess the background to the conviction was, probably, the words that senior Chinese officials visiting Pyeongyang heard at a meeting with the North Korean leader, that North Korea would participate in a second round of six-way talks.
As in the past, a secret presidential envoy might have, by chance, visited North Korea to induce a certain agreement between the North and the South. Although this approach caused suspicions earlier, it is hard to expect such boldness and daring from the present administration. Seeing its handling of the United States, that is even more so.
President Roh complained about the United States even before his inauguration, and we thought the two countries would confront each other before long. But Korea became subservient before long, and that attitude still remains. The problem is that the presidential aides are still confused about the significance of the United States to us. Some aides began to realize the strategic importance of the United States from their experience during the past few months and have taken a different stance. Now they are having fights with their colleagues. Moreover, when they see the arrogance of the United States, they come to question again if their change of heart was right.
And fights about the United States are only one part of the general conflict among policymakers. The differences of position between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the Bush administration have been given frequent media coverage. But their conflicts do not shake the basis of policies thanks to the president’s capability to judge and the efforts of national security advisors in the White House to arbitrate their difference. Im Dong-won, the presidential advisor to the Kim Dae-jung administration, had little difficulty getting the big picture of national policies because he had actually taken charge of foreign policy, security and North-South relations. Mr. Im lacked flexibility, but he could maintain consistency. In addition, President Kim was more familiar with handling the North-South problem and the United States than his aides.
But the present administration’s decision-making process on foreign policy is quite different. After his decision to dispatch troops to Iraq, President Roh made an unexpected remark that implementing his decision was very difficult. Also, some Blue House staff express their opinions regardless of the position of other government departments. This creates chaos in the people’s minds as well as confusion in policies. Therefore, some people criticize the system because it does not work properly. Credibility in our national policies overseas is also undermined.
A bigger problem is that aides are undermining the decision the president has made after a long anguish. Capitalizing on support from civic groups, they are challenging our country’s decision-making system. Those who think the unexpected behavior of presidential staff, unaccustomed to life in a bureaucracy, is an advantage for a “people’s government” are wrong, and they are not qualified to be Blue House aides.
Rather than cool-headedly seeking an alternative to prepare for the worst, interpreting the situation and available information as optimistically as possible and evading difficult decisions are not good qualities for the presidential staff. The attitude of learning something very difficult and overcoming their innocent purity to contribute to their country is commendable, but this, also, is not what is required of Blue House aides.
We cannot blame the Blue House staff for their attitude that they will decide their positions on major policies after listening to as many people as possible. But when they fail to coordinate these opinions and when the conflict between government departments comes to the surface, the Blue House aides have already failed in their jobs. Those aides whose duty is to disseminate the president’s determination to pursue reform and those whose role is to coordinate the departmental positions in dealing with national affairs should not be divided into high and low ranks within the organization.
Both the determination to pursue reform and the capability to coordinate are qualities required of Blue House aides.
* The writer is an editorial writer and director of JoongAng Ilbo Unification Research Institute.
by Kil Jeong-woo