Dismantling a troubling legacy

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Dismantling a troubling legacy

President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has kicked off a drive to reform presidential offices handling law enforcement agencies and checking potential power abuse of the president. Apparently, that’s a move to clear public concerns about the possibility of the former prosecutor turning to the mighty office of the senior secretary for civil affairs to help persecute his political enemies. We welcome Yoon’s decision as the office of the senior secretary has been criticized for faithfully following politically-motivated orders from the president in the past.

In a meeting Monday with Ahn Cheol-soo, chairman of the transition committee, Yoon vowed to remove investigative and overseeing functions from the Blue House and shut down the office of the senior secretary for civil affairs. The powerful office oversees what the major power agencies — the prosecution, the police, the National Intelligence Service, the National Tax Service and the Board of Audit and Inspection — are doing.

That’s not all. The office is engaged in internal inspection of the Blue House, inspecting high-ranking officials, and monitoring any possible corruption by the president’s family. Rep. Kim Eun-hye, the spokesperson for the transition committee, said the decision reflects the president-elect’s determination to eradicate bad legacies of past presidents. The demise of the conservative Park Geun-hye administration coincided with the power abuse of Woo Byung-woo, the former senior secretary for civil affairs in the Blue House.

Yoon may have learned lessons from the downfall of Chu Kuk, the first senior secretary for civil affairs in the Moon Jae-in administration. After wielding his massive power, Cho even triggered disobedience from one of his aides. The office only helped fuel confusion with its high-handedness over investigations by the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) in the process of balancing investigative rights between the prosecution and the police, for instance. If the office disappears, a special inspection unit inside the office will vanish. The inspection unit, in particular, was suspected of getting involved in many cases to help achieve what the president wanted. Such a shameful legacy must end.

At the same time, the president-elect promised to restore the now defunct office for overseeing relatives of the president in order to preempt their possible abuse of power. The office was set up at the Blue House in the Park Geun-hye administration, but Moon refused to appoint a head of the office for unspecified reasons. He didn’t have to do so if he has nothing to hide. It remains to be seen if the office will be reactivated.
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