[OUTLOOK]Roh’s close friends ignore the public

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[OUTLOOK]Roh’s close friends ignore the public

The nomination of Kim Byong-joon as the new education minister reminds me of a murder case by a former Blue House official. The senior official, who had an affair with a staff member at the office, killed his wife as she confronted him about the affair.
The senior officer, with the last name Lee, was a former student activist. When he worked at the office of information and policy monitoring at the Blue House, a woman started working at the same office. They had known each other because both of them were student activists. As their desks were side-by-side in one corner of the office, they became even closer.
Although they tried to hide their relationship, their affair was soon revealed. The chief of the office called in Mr. Lee. He strongly denied the relationship, but the chief scolded him sternly. Mr. Lee handed in a resignation letter. That is how it ended inside the office.
The real problem started after that. As Mr. Lee had been working as an administrative worker and did not have any other skills, it was hard for him to find a job outside the government.
Some officials at the Blue House who were also former student activists felt sorry for Mr. Lee and tried to help him. Finally, Mr. Lee found a job at the office of the senior secretary to the president for public information.
Not long after he found the new job, he killed his wife. The Blue House was harshly criticized for its lack of morality and loose discipline. Many Blue House officials and staff members regretted not taking his resignation letter right away. Kim Byong-joon took a big-brother role for other former student activists. He was one of the few people that President Roh Moo-hyun could openly talk to when his opponents attempted an impeachment.
When Mr. Kim was the chief secretary to the president for national policy, some people said, with sarcasm, that he was practically higher than the chief of staff. Mr. Kim is said to have a broad network of people and to have taken good care of other former student activists.
Perhaps because he had earned trust from the president and support from other Blue House officials who were former student activists, he was able to make such arrogant remarks as, “Measures for heavy taxes are still on the way,” and “The real estate policy might be harder to revise than the Constitution.”
Since he left the Blue House, there have been rumors that he would be appointed as the new education minister or the economy minister.
Right after the ruling Uri Party lost the local elections, some Blue House officials who were former student activists said with certainty, but off the record, that Mr. Kim would become the new education minister.
Journalists said that because he had been working on the real estate measures, the economy minister might have been a better choice if he had to become a minister. Then the officials answered that the real estate measures were widely seen as a failure and still under attack.
When the journalists asked why the Blue House was obsessed with him, the officials said that he had been working for the administration with strong conviction and drive so that they could not let him go with dishonor.
The officials seemed to try hard to make the rumors about him becoming the education minister an irreversible fact.
This might be an exaggeration, but to me they seemed to worry that their positions would become shaky if Mr. Kim failed to become the new education minister.
President Roh and the Blue House officials who were former student activists are full of sympathy. They appreciate human bonding and when their friends are in trouble, they do anything to help them out. This is beautiful, indeed.
As they spent a long and tough time together fighting for democracy, they know exactly what hardship a friend will go through once he is kicked out of the circle.
Probably because they share memories and have a special bond, they never yield their government positions to people outside their network. This results in their stubborn management style that seemingly ignores the people’s opinion.
Distorted comradeship is neither desirable nor healthy for society.
Mr. Lee’s case ended up a disaster for one family. But the case could put the entire nation in trouble. Rumors are swirling that there are plenty of people whom the president owes ministry positions.
We do not know how many more people will be nominated or appointed as ministers only because of President Roh’s or the Blue House officials’ personal affection.
The Blue House should display self-restraint and discipline as an organization in charge of managing the nation.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Lee Chul-ho
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