Staff members need to loosen up“A person’s coming is in fact an enormous affair. Because what we see is actually a life walk in,” wrote Jung Hyun-jong in his poem titled “Visitor.” As co-host for JTBC News, I headed to transition committee headquarters, where the team was disbanding ahead of inauguration day. After President-elect Park Geun-hye left, her people came out of the office. I interviewed 10 of them one by one. As I talked with the people who would be accompanying Park, my heart filled with excitement as well as anxiety as I envisioned what the next five years would be like.
I was relieved by the sharp and resolute determination I read in the eyes of Kim Jang-soo, a former defense minister who will be serving as chief of the presidential National Security Office. When he was asked to speak on the nuclear threats by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he said, “One glare can be more fearsome than 10 nuclear bombs. I hope Kim Jong-un will hear this.” He may, in fact, be addressing the audience in South Korea rather than the leader in Pyongyang. The will to protect what’s valuable is most important, he continued. “Whether it is an organization, individual or a state, what matters is the will on sustainability and prosperity.”
What the North’s unruly young leader hopes to strike and destroy with nuclear and missile weapons would be viability and prosperity of the South Korean people. He wants to put fear and nervousness in the eyes of the people in the South so they will yield to his demands. The new national security chief seems to have read through Kim’s tactics. It was reassuring to know that the national security control tower is in safe hands.
It was also refreshing to see that Yoo Min-bong has not shaved off his bohemian beard even after being named senior secretary for state affairs planning. A beard in Korean society is more associated with being carefree and liberal than serious, strict and authoritarian. A beard may be a sign of individuality on the streets, but in the Blue House it could also be a diversion from the heavy, stale and all-business-all-the-time air in the presidential office.
Asked whether he will keep his beard, he nodded yes without hesitation. I commented that the performance of transition team had been too quiet as well as unimpressive. After a moment, he said, “We sometimes need to impress quietly.” Quietness, humbleness and modesty are the values the new president incants. But the people want to be impressed, entertained and relieved. Yoo may be aiming to achieve both values ? impressing the people in the new president’s humble way. I sincerely hope he brings a breath of fresh air to the Blue House and joy to the common people.
Despite some pleasure, I cannot shake off my apprehensions. Park’s people in general fall short of awe, expectations, fun and freshness. A government does not simply work on good set of policies. It must consist of a persuasive group of people. Few can be persuaded without fun and a good impression. The new government members must carry themselves more freely in order to win the hearts of the people and the legislature.
Her people so far appear to be generally rigid and overly cautious. Yoon Chang-joong, the transition committee’s spokesman, bolted upon seeing me approaching him. He may have wanted to avoid an interview ahead of his formal appointment as a presidential spokesman. But he hardly comes across as someone who would be candid and open. Why does he run and avoid talking to the press if he has nothing to hide? How can such a secretive and rigid character persuasively relay the words of the president to the people?
What can move the heart are sometimes not words, but the way they are expressed. The people closest to the president must be experts on persuasion. They must know the means. Persuasion is not achieved with language alone, but through character, expression, gestures and signs.
The sharp eyes of national security chief Kim and beard of senior secretary Yoo should be examples. President Lee Myung-bak has not erred in trade negotiations over American beef imports and North Korean policy. However, he failed to persuade the people. His policy drew strong nationwide protests not because it was terribly flawed, but because people were not convinced.
The staff members of the Park Geun-hye administration are overly restrained and subdued. Just because the president prefers humility and calm does not necessarily mean they should be statue-like figures without expression, impression and fun. They must recover their emotions so they can connect and empathize better with the people. Rigidity does not have ears. People of the president, relax a little.
*The author is an editorial writer and JTBC News anchor.
by Chun Yong-gi