Redesign the presidential office

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Redesign the presidential office

Unlike presidential offices in other countries, there is a physical distance of 500 meters (547 yards) between the president and rest of the staff at the Blue House. Only the chief of staff resides in the same main building as the president. Other senior aides usually take a car from the auxiliary building for the secretariat to see the president. The rest have to walk at least 10 minutes. A missile from North Korea could arrive there faster.

Renovating the presidential office has been a regular part of the agenda for every president. As presidential candidates, former Presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung, as well as Moon Jae-in, chairman of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), promised to redesign the presidential office. Former President Lee Myung-bak also made an attempt toward the latter part of his tenure but gave up due to budget problems. The work was then handed over to the next president.

The House Steering Committee, which oversees budgeting for the Blue House, offered to earmark funds for a redesign in next year’s budget, but the presidential office reportedly refused. The Blue House threw away the long-awaited chance to renovate such an isolated structure.

President Park Geun-hye has paid little attention to repeated calls and criticism about her aloof personality and lack of communication. She may have thought she would be giving in if she agreed to renovate the presidential office. But she is clearly wrong. In the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan, the heads of state work among their aides.

This is particularly necessary in emergency situations. Presidents and their aides need to be in the same space to communicate quickly and effectively. If she had been available, the president would have immediately known about the Sewol ferry disaster. The government could have also responded better in the early stages of the Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak in May. Furthermore, the president was not present at the security meeting in August after the land mine explosions in the demilitarized zone.

This space can play an important role. It is better to hear the story through the horse’s mouth than through telephone or email. South Korea is constantly under threat from North Korea and needs to be as alert and agile as possible.

The president hardly speaks to the press, so she should at least keep her aides close by. She must realize the importance of distance based on the failures at the administrative city of Sejong. Park must seriously consider redesigning the presidential office. This is not just a personal issue, but a possible legacy she could leave for the presidents that come after her.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 5, Page 34

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