Cheers and some advice to Yoon

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Cheers and some advice to Yoon

President Yoon Suk-yeol has responded to impromptu questions at the doorstep of his office 17 times since taking office in May. His predecessor Moon Jae-in had taken pride in holding 11 press conferences without prior script, Q. and A. and editing arrangement over his five years in office. The new president has matched actions to his plan to give up the heavily-guarded Blue House to choose a humbler presidential office in Yongsan, central Seoul, to enhance communication and transparency in governance.

At the doorstep, he has received about 70 questions so far. They covered pending issues like Korea-U.S. summit talks, supplementary budget and the cargo trucker union’s general strike, as well sensitive issues on questionable ministerial nominees, senior government posts, ongoing protests in front of the former president’s private residence, and behaviors of the first lady. Reporters asked those questions on behalf of the people. If Yoon had stayed at the Blue House and did not accept interviews at the doorstep, he could not have given a prompt response to current issues. The new practice could be a huge help to Yoon’s presidency compared with past presidents who floundered by falling distant with public sentiment.

President Yoon stayed as straightforward as he had been as a prosecutor. He sometimes went in depth to express his thoughts without going through a spokesperson. People have come to know the president’s thoughts better as a result.

But the spontaneous sessions often led to misunderstanding or controversy. When asked about the protests outside the residence of Moon, he said the presidential office does not restrain protests — as if to condone the vociferous rallies. Although his remarks referred to the freedom of assembly, it could have sounded disrespectful.

Some of his remarks also were out of sync with his promise to be unitive and engaging. When asked whether the prosecutorial investigations of former government figures meant political revenge, he said investigations on past events were natural, pointing out that such practices took place under the past government, too. Yoon retorted that the past administration had been dominated by a liberal group of lawyers in responding to the criticism about his appointments of prosecutors for senior government posts. On his wife, the president said such misunderstandings happened because he was new to the presidential office.

The new legacy of the president stopping to take questions at the doorstep is putting an end to the highhandedness — and silence — of the leadership. His successors must uphold the tradition. But first, Yoon must set an example as the pioneer. He should be more discreet in every answer to lessen unnecessary controversy.
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