Let them turn on the A/C, please

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Let them turn on the A/C, please


President Park Geun-hye must have inherited her frugality from her father. It is widely known that a secretary who was cleaning the presidential office after President Park Chung Hee was assassinated on Oct. 26, 1979 discovered two bricks inside the toilet water tank.

At the time, the Blue House did not keep the air-conditioning system on. Even at the height of the summer, the president kept his office windows wide open and used fans. When he found flies, he waved the swatter. In winter, he only used the heater when it was really cold. The secretaries used to wear an extra layer of clothes and drank hot tea. He also made sure he used up the notepads inscribed with the year. Former Blue House secretary Kim Doo-young says that he still keeps a memo from the president from 1975 on a note printed 1974.

Lately, the air-conditioning system is once again not operating in the Blue House. President Park Geun-hye is leading by example. During the day, when you step into the office of the secretaries’ buildings, you can feel the heat. The two buildings are especially hot because they are more than 40 years old. With so many people working in the small space, one secretary said, “I now understand that human bodies are heating elements.”

It depends on your personal preference whether the heat of summer or the cold of winter is bearable. Shin Young-bok, a professor at Sungkonghoe University, thinks winter’s cold is better. When you are stuck in a tiny cell in the summer, the person next to you is nothing but an element projecting heat at 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit). Summer makes you “hate” the person next to you. It is a cruel punishment compared to the “primitive friendship” developed in winter as body heat keeps you warm. It is truly unfortunate that you hate and are hated by the person closest to you (“Thoughts from the Prison” by Shin Young-bok).

So, Blue House staff members welcome the monsoon season that started Monday. The monsoon rain will cool off the heat. But it is not very desirable to replay the scene from 40 years ago.

The Blue House staff members are involved in very important business and should be given a comfortable, pleasant environment to help them focus. It would be more beneficial to the nation if they could think about chronic electricity shortages or other issues with refreshed and recharged brains.

The same goes for the government office complex. It may look nice if the prime minister distributes fans to the ministers and vice ministers to encourage them to save energy. But the citizens’ hope is that they perform better and save the budget by focusing on their jobs. Former President Park Chung Hee may have put bricks in his toilet water tank in order to make the next generation work in a better environment. Don’t you think so?

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

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