Revamping the government

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Revamping the government

President Park Geun-hye endeavors to reinvent her government as she faces an even tougher situation than two years ago. Despite stark challenges involving North Korea, domestic politics and the economy, the government seems to have lost its steam. After the end of the first two months of the year, called a “golden time” because there was no election risk, the government must demonstrate its determination to tackle challenges.

The president must find a driving force for a new start in the art of cabinet reshuffling. But she is still dealing with the aftermath of her appointment fiascoes. After difficulties ahead of the appointment of Lee Wan-koo, former floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, as prime minister, the public expected a fresh lineup from the government. But Park has repeatedly betrayed the public through botched appointments.

The success of the government revamp heavily rests on her chief of staff. Currently, national diplomacy and security are handled by head of the National Security Office at the Blue House, while the economy and social affairs are covered by the deputy prime minister. The coordinating role among the party, government and the Blue House is assumed by a policy coordinating body headed by the prime minister. Under these power dynamics, a new chief of staff must find his or her own role in the government. The most urgently needed function required of the chief of staff is communication with the president to serve as a bridge between the people, party and government and the Blue House.

Given the careers of her first and second chiefs of staff - both served as junior and senior officials at the Blue House in the 1970s when President Park played the role of first lady after her mother’s assassination - they obviously had trouble freely talking to the president. Her third chief of staff should be free from such shackles. He or she must be able to talk to the president without restraint so as to “connect” her with the people.

In just two years after the launch of the administration, the ruling Saenuri Party faces a crisis, as seen in the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy’s remarkable turnaround in popularity, which is now almost on par with that of the ruling party. The government and Saenuri are both liable for the results. Yet the ruling party chairman, Kim Moo-sung, nonchalantly said that President Park’s slogan of “welfare without tax hikes” is cheating the public - as if he was an outsider. In the meantime, newly elected Saenuri floor leader Yoo Seong-min has called for a “colossal revamp of the personnel at the Blue House.” Obviously, the cacophony has led to an alarming withdrawal of citizen support for the government.

Public sentiment during the Lunar New Year holiday was icy cold. Both the president and the ruling party are losing to their counterparts in terms of people’s current assessment and future expectations. The ruling camp’s critical lack of communication with the public and their division has caused this. The Blue House and the ruling party must revitalize quickly.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 23, Page 30

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