[EDITORIALS]Roh shouldn’t play politicsThe comments President Roh Moo-hyun made in Gwangju gave rise to unnecessary misunderstandings. It is natural that a president should visit various regions and talk about local issues. However, it is inappropriate for him to make comments that seem directly linked to next year’s elections.
President Roh expressed affection for Gwangju, calling it “a home that is more home than home” and saying it had given him the “decisive support” needed to win office. These are comments any politician could make. But Mr. Roh crossed the line by citing his secretary for personnel affairs, Jeong Chan-yong, as a person Gwangju citizens can consult with in hard times. He said, “Secretary Jeong’s main duty is to look after personnel affairs, but he also plays an important role as a communication channel for his native region.” He added, “The person in charge of personnel affairs has the real power.”
The president might have made these comments to appease Honam residents’ feelings against him, but, in effect, he has degraded his secretary of personnel affairs to a working-level official for regional communications. By this logic, the presidential secretary for civil affairs, Moon Jae-in, would be the communication channel for Busan, and Lee Joung-woo, the top Blue House policy planner, would be the channel for Daegu.
Of course, it is true that Blue House aides more or less play such a role. But the minute the president mentions this in public, it raises doubt about their neutrality. Now, whenever Mr. Jeong recommends a Gwangju native to a post, he will be suspected of favoritism.
The general elections are only five months away. Unless the president refrains from comments that could be viewed as related to the elections, he will anger the political sector. If the president indeed excluded the Millennium Democratic Party’s Gwangju city council members and invited only the Our Open Party members to his luncheon meeting, as the Millennium Democrats claim, then the problem is even more serious. The president must not forget for a moment that he is the head of the administration.