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Newspaper Standard

Posted June. 03, 2017 07:07,   

Updated June. 03, 2017 07:14


“President Moon Jae-in said he was very shocked,” Chief Presidential Press Secretary Yoon Young-chan told a media briefing at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. It is the first time that Cheong Wa Dae commented on the direct reaction of the president that reveals his sentiment. It might be an understatement of the president’s "rage." However, the situation has magnified significantly since then. The office of Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs started to find facts. There are also strong reactions and people talk about mutiny and the nation in disorder. The ruling party announced to push for hearings in the National Assembly.

The Defense Ministry hit harder by the president’s remark. The military is in panic. The situation got worse and it spreads throughout the entire bureaucratic society, not to mention security and foreign ministries. Even those who are not sensitive to external impacts say that they now feel the change of government. It might be that Cheong Wa Dae intended such chain reactions. The bureaucrats begin to sense the return of previous governing style of the Roh Moo-hyun administration.

Former President Roh emphasized transparent foreign policies. He publicized issues in decision-making process to the thinking that the decision should not be made secretly like the imperial presidency in the past even sensitive ones. He let the National Security Council Office coordinate public opinions and policies of the ministry and this naturally caused Cheong Wa Dae to have much power.

President Moon’s approach to make decisions are also based on such framework. His presidential election pledge claims to support the people’s diplomacy. When the president deploys his special envoys to leading countries, he emphasized political legitimacy and transparency. In particular, President Moon asked them to deliver his message that the new government was able to be launched thanks to the people’s power. This meant that he wanted to send his message to leaders of leading countries that the new administration, which was established after the candlelight revolution, must review secret agreements made in the past.

However, the transparent policy decision comes at a cost. The autonomy of ministries, which are full of secrecy, was greatly restricted and career diplomats and military men and women in uniforms began to distrust the administration. As a result, the ministry in charge of concerning matters were often excluded during the decision-making process. Furthermore, conflicts between people who claim self-defense and defense alliance grew bigger, changing the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae as a battlefield of ideology.

President Moon has observed the process while serving as senior presidential secretary for civil affairs and Presidential Chief of Staff. When disputes surrounding the relocation of U.S. camps in Yongsan surfaced, Moon, then senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, was in charge of the investigation on the NSC, the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry. Defense expert Kim Jong-dae, who is a lawmaker of the Justice Party, concluded that Moon did not loss his sense of balance in the middle of heated mood based on his observation.

Chief of Staff Moon got the briefing from the presidential secretary for public office discipline and listened to the conflicting views from related ministries and submitted a well-balanced 6-page report by summarizing the original 17-page report that was significantly biased. After reviewing the report then President Roh said, “I cannot figure out which argument is right.” (excerpt from Cross the Threshold of the Era, written by Roh Moo-hyun in 2010).

Not to be excited, and not to be biased person. That was the nature of Moon Jae-in who developed a bland report, making President Roh confused. Such person exposed his anger now. Sooner or later the fact will be revealed by the investigation of the office of Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs. It could be a lie of a party, or a matter of miscommunication. However, I cannot help but wonder. What made him lose his control… Is it because of that he is now the president, not the Chief of Staff?