Presidential security

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Presidential security

The author is a financial news team reporter at the JoongAng Ilbo.

The practice of guarding a leader in Korea began when people started to form groups and have leaders. After states like ancient Gojoseon were established, leaders were guarded by various organizations, mostly military. In the late Goryeo period, Sungunmanhobu, the first bodyguard agency, was established to protecting kings. A modern form of presidential bodyguards began when Park Chung-hee became president in 1963. It was an independent agency with its head being a ministerial-level official. Korea and the United States are two cases where an independent guarding agency protects the president. In most other countries, the police are in charge of protecting a head of state.

The head of the Presidential Security Service (PSS) is considered the core part of power as they manage every move of the presidential family and stay the closest. During the military regime, the head of the PSS was called the “mini president” and wielded great influence. As the military regimes ended, they were condemned for abuse of power and illegal accumulation of wealth. In the Park Geun-hye administration, her personal friends, including Choi Seo-won, were classified as “security guests” and were allowed to enter the Blue House without any checks or records, providing the basis for her illicit involvement in state affairs.

The PSS is under fire once again. Three months after President Yoon Suk-yeol’s inauguration, the head of the office was rumored to be fired after a series of security incidents, including leaks of the president’s schedule. On Aug. 24, a posting was put on Facebook by the first lady Kim Keon-hee’s fan club. It said, “President Yoon Seok-yeol is to visit the Seomun Market in Daegu at 12 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 28.” The movement of the president is a second-class secret under the security guidelines. If a civil servant leaks such information, he or she is subject to criminal punishment.

A similar incident happened three months ago. Photos of President Yoon and his wife in the office and on the lawn of the presidential office in Yongsan spending time with their pet dog were posted on Facebook.

It would not be so hard for the PSS to find out who leaked the photos and schedule. But three months ago, and even now, Yoon’s presidential office maintains a vague attitude, saying it is still working on it. Seeing the information leaked through private channels, I wish such presidential information was not exposed by such “security guests” as in the Park Geun-hye administration.
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