Keeping a low profile

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Keeping a low profile

There are always some figures who exaggerate their role and influence during power transitions, for instance by claiming to be confidants to the new leader or at least part of their inner circle. Campaign staff tend to step into the limelight with the president-elect in the weeks leading up to their inauguration, and some flaunt their close connections to earn rewards, raising eyebrows and causing resentment from the general public.

President-elect Park Geun-hye has managed to keep her key aides and loyalists out of the presidential transition team. But their faces are likely to pop up here and there on the pretext of relaying Park’s inner thoughts to members of the team. Considering the strong allure of power, it is likely some won’t be able to resist the temptation to try and grab more of it. One group of people is already said to be strutting around boasting of their roles as “advisers” to members of the transition team. They mostly work in private organizations supporting the president-elect, and are apparently seeking their share of the glory.

Transition committees usually divide into several subcommittees on state, foreign, economic, social and cultural affairs, with the head each leading a group of experts and advisers. Incumbent President Lee Myung-bak recruited 558 advisers for his team five years ago; his predecessor Roh Moo-hyun had as many as 700 back in 2002, not to mention various private organizations who worked for him. These advisers often ascend to the position by virtue of their ties to the president-elect, rather than based on their expertise, morality or abilities. As such, past presidents and governments have typically been questioned about how much they were vulnerable to cronyism and favoritism.

The motivation of those who ditch their jobs to help the president-elect is rarely noble and altruistic. They are usually either after a government post or an election nomination. Some have subsequently embarrassed the president after being hit with corruption charges. They can also branch off and raise factional strife, giving the opposition a good excuse to launch new attacks.

Park decided not to recruit an outside team of advisers to help her transitional team. She tought that they are often more trouble than they are of help. Also the team can always seek out additional help as the needs arise, so there is little sense in going through the formality of handing out advisory titles for the one-month period.

People are sensitive to subtle shifts of power during such a transitional period, as the inner circle moves to cement its ranks and positions. However, if they are truly loyal to the president-elect, these figures need to prove their worth rather than merely expecting high-level positions to be handed down to them in return for their past efforts.

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