The Blue House is out of controlIn a speech to the National Assembly, Kim Kwan-yong, floor leader of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party, called for reform in the Blue House. He blamed the presidential office for causing confusion and ineptness under President Moon Jae-in.
“Political reform should start with the Blue House, which controls the administration and ruling party as its puppets,” he criticized. He demanded the Blue House significantly streamline its organization and budget, and leave a minimum of staff to aid the president while leaving the job to the cabinet. “Instead of saying greater responsibility will be given to the cabinet, the Blue House must demonstrate its will by abolishing all kinds of presidential committees and leaving affairs to the government,” he said.
The Moon administration is referred to as the Blue House government because the presidential office wields enormous influence and power. There are almost 480 staff members in the secretariat offices and National Security Office (NSO) — the most after 531 under President Roh Moo-hyun. The number of Blue House staffers was about 400 under Kim Dae-jung, 456 under Lee Myung-bak and 465 under Park Geun-hye. In line with the increase in staff, the presidential office has stretched to rule over cabinet ministers and vice ministers.
Bureaucrats should take orders on security and foreign affairs from the NSO, and on economic and social affairs from the policy office in the Blue House. No wonder we see little action from the government. The cabinet members are busy customizing policies for the presidential office. The Foreign Ministry did little during the U.S.-North Korean denuclearization negotiations. Even a junior official from the Blue House phoned the Army Chief of Staff to meet in a cafe during the general-level promotion period, which suggests how meddlesome the Blue House has become.
The Moon administration’s excessive presidential power has weakened the ruling party, as well as the National Assembly. Cho Hai-ju, a standing member of the National Election Commission, even skipped the confirmation hearing in the face of opposition, as he served as Moon’s campaign aide.
Under the Constitution, the president must govern through the cabinet, while the National Assembly keeps government in check. Moon must heed the voices of concern over the excessive power of the presidential office.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 14, Page 30