[Outlook]Political warrior wantedWhen hiring people for the government, one of the most important considerations is the current circumstances. Some people are well suited to peaceful times, and others fare better during periods of turbulence. But now, the president plans to hire a college chancellor who used to be a professor as his new chief-of-staff in the presidential office.
This is not a good first step for the staff reshuffle in the wake of the U.S. beef import crisis. The problem does not lie with the candidate himself. He is just not the person best suited for the current situation.
After the presidency stabilizes, it is no problem to have a scholar or a manager, like the current designate, in the post. However, these days we are not in need of an expert on presidential studies or a manager who handled university affairs and development. What we need now is a person who has experienced the battlefield that is the political arena in the position of chief-of-staff.
For the president to again hire a professor makes one suspect that his style hasn’t changed, despite his two apologies to the people. We can figure out what a person is thinking by looking at the people he or she hires. The president seems to be sticking to his old policy of being the absolute leader, with his secretaries and cabinet just following behind him.
But what went wrong? What caused the current uproar? As the president himself confessed, it happened because the issue of U.S. beef imports has to be resolved first, in order to get legislative ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. The government hurriedly lifted a ban on imports of U.S. beef, without giving enough thought to the effects that the measure would bring about.
Things would have been different if there had been a chief-of-staff who could make judgments from a political perspective. If such a person could have gathered the opinions of the secretariat and delivered honest advice to the president, things wouldn’t have gone this far. If a former professor or manager-type is employed again, he or she will simply follow and obey the president without being able to voice opposition. If so, there is no guarantee that a second or a third row, similar to the beef dispute, won’t happen again.
Thus, there must be a person who can keep track of the president’s judgment. The presidential secretary for political affairs cannot do the job by himself. The chief-of-staff must be able to carry out this task.
The fact that the candidate for chief-of-staff is the president of Ulsan University is also inappropriate. Why Ulsan University, when it is linked to the Hyundai Group? Chung Mong-joon, a member of the ruling Grand National Party, is the founder of the university. These things might look trivial, but any potential for political controversy must be eliminated from the beginning. It is hard to understand why a personnel appointment should be handled in a way that carries a possibility of causing controversy.
The president still hasn’t abandoned his old style ? he still wants to work with people he knows from within his territory. If this persists, the same type of problems will be repeated.
The president may complain and ask what he can do under the circumstances. He can say he looked for a professional politician or civil servant for the post, but failed. But that is only an excuse, and shows that the president hasn’t changed. If he wants to hire the right people he should tear down his boundaries and go beyond it to find new people.
It was widely expected that the new chief-of-staff would be someone from the political sector who has abundant experience in politics and public administration. It’s common knowledge that that would be the right choice. It is not true that there are no talented or suitable people. They do exist, but the president can’t find them because he is stuck within his own territory.
Even a bent tree can produce straight wood if a carpenter draws a straight line and cuts it adroitly. Likewise, if a master listens to his servants, he can grow wiser. The ancient Chinese book, “Zhen Guan Zheng Yao,” advises that if a king wants to become a sage ruler, he should have seven servants who give their honest opinions and advice. Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty was able to earn respect as the leader of Guanzhen because he had seven such servants. We will see if the Blue House will have seven presidential secretaries who aren’t afraid to tell the president what they think.
As the old saying goes, the employees prove the capacity of the employer. This still rings true today.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong