Beyond the shuffle

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Beyond the shuffle

President Park Geun-hye has reshuffled four senior secretaries for political affairs, economic affairs, civil affairs and education and culture. Given the recent resignation of Secretary for Public Affairs Lee Jung-hyun, this signifies a major replacement of five out of nine presidential secretaries and reflects a significant signal of change at the Blue House, within the ruling Saenuri Party and also for the National Assembly following the Sewol ferry disaster and the June 4 local elections.

What should be noted here are not the new faces in Park’s senior secretariat, but the fact that her chief of staff Kim Ki-choon remains in his post. At 75, Kim, former prosecutor general turned justice minister turned chief of staff, has been under attack for wielding excessive power as chief secretary, constricting the powers of the ruling party and the cabinet. His opponents insist that Kim - who also serves as chairman of the Central Personnel Committee - must take responsibility for a series of botched appointments for top positions, as seen in prime minister nominee Ahn Dae-hee’s sudden withdrawal of his nomination. Despite harsh criticism of Kim’s failure to scrutinize candidates’ backgrounds, Park seems to have opted for his staying in the Blue House to minimize a potential power vacuum before the imminent revamp of her cabinet. Given the public’s desire for change in her leadership style, particularly after the Sewol tragedy, it remains to be seen if her decision to reshuffle some of her secretaries - instead of her chief of staff - will satisfy the people’s growing demands for change.

The new presidential secretaries must obviously raise their political sensitivities. The most important thing for the Blue House is to know where public sentiment is heading and maintaining close communications with the legislature. Former Senior Secretary for Political Affairs Park Joon-woo lacked an understanding of realpolitik. His replacement Cho Yoon-sun, minister of gender equality and family, should not follow in his footsteps and must face up to the reality of politics. No matter how grand a political vision or determination to reshape national governance, the president cannot move an inch without support from opposition parties. Yoon, a lawmaker turned minister-turned presidential secretary, must help the president respect the National Assembly.

The new secretary for civil affairs, Kim Young-han, must help Park avoid yet another appointments fiasco by advising her to steer away from the bureaucrats, generals and lawyers she so obviously favors. He must create an effective screening system for nominees. Park also needs to have more face-to-face meetings with her new secretaries rather than relying on their reports by phone or documents.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 13, Page 30

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