Papering over the cracks

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Papering over the cracks


President Park Geun-hye revealed a plan to form a team of special advisers to “more closely communicate with the National Assembly and parties” in her New Year press conference on Jan. 12.

The purpose of establishing the team was to improve communication. As a result, the most important duty of the special assistants, especially the adviser for political affairs, is to contribute to the dialogue between the president and the National Assembly.

But the three newly appointed advisers, Joo Hoyoung, Yoon Sang-hyun and Kim Jae-won of the ruling Saenuri Party, began their stints with controversy over their difficulty in communicating.

It all began with the argument that their very positions violate the spirit of the Constitution on the separation of power. Article 29 of the National Assembly Act states: “No National Assembly member shall concurrently hold office, except office as prime minister or minister.” Exceptions include honorary positions for public interest.

The Blue House claims that the presidential adviser is an unpaid honorary position and that only expenses are paid. But it is more controversial if you look at the law closely. Even if it is an honorary position, an assemblyman concurrently holding another position should report in writing to the speaker immediately. Moreover, it is not the speaker who determines whether it is appropriate as the speaker must consult the Ethics Advisory Committee. But the three advisers, who are lawmakers, have yet to report to the speaker as of March 3. If this is further delayed, it is a violation of the law. Speaker Chung Ui-hwa does not hide his discontent with how the lawmakers have dealt with the situation.

When the New Politics Alliance for Democracy Chairman Moon Jae-in raised the issue, the Saenuri Party argued in a briefing that former President Roh Moo-hyun had also appointed four assemblymen, including Lee Hae-chan, as special advisers in October 2006. However, such a precedent does not justify breaking the law.

In fact, the point of the controversy is not the separation of powers but communication, which is the very purpose of the team of special advisers. In fact, the creation of the team was far from communicative. The idea was conceived at a Blue House banquet with the so-called pro-Park Geun-hye politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Choi Kyung-hwan and Suh Chung-won, ruling party supreme council leader, on Dec. 19.

When Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung and floor leader Yoo Seong-min, who were not invited to the dinner, met President Park on Feb. 10, they advised her that special advisers for political affairs were not necessary. But President Park did not take their advice. The appointments of the three new assistants were detailed to the Saenuri Party leadership just one hour before the Blue House announced them.

The first role of the team should be solving the problems that they themselves have created. The advisers need to actively communicate and seek understanding for concurrently holding positions. They must solve problems, not avoid them. That’s the way to go.

*The author is a political and international news writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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