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[Editorial] Temptations of Inner Circle Advisors

Posted May. 18, 2003 22:12,   


More than ten special presidential aide posts are to be newly created. They won’t really have any duties and authority, only titles. Even worse, presidential secretary Yoo In-tae said that “President Roh wants to appoint up to 100 people.” Simply unprecedented.

The Blue House stresses that they will not receive any compensation. That does not, however, guarantee that they will not get their hands dirty in the political process. The special aides will basically have free access to the President, being able to talk to or advise the President at any time, unrestrained. Considering our social structure and culture, the strongest source of power is that of the individual. That was why previous administrations were reluctant to appoint special aides.

It`s a part of life for people to hang about powerful figures, asking for special favors. That is more likely to happen when the figure has power without any obligations. Quite a number of the Kim Dae-jung administration`s inner circle did not even have titles, and these were the same people who got caught up in the numerous bribery scandals which rocked the last presidency. Most special aides belong to the inner circle of President Roh. With this special relationship, it is doubtful whether they can resist the various temptations that lie in wait for them.

In Korea, appearances are very important. Without a proper title, how can anyone maintain their appearance as a responsible and dignified person? Some people suspect that granting these newly appointed advisors titles aims at enhancing their chances in upcoming general elections. They would therefore need titles not only to maintain appearances, but also for political reasons.

Blue House organizations have increased considerably in number and size. That poses another concern for us. Special aides have no authority or responsibility. Thus, it is possible they would try to call the shots on many important matters. Furthermore, the more power Blue House organizations gain, the less power the cabinet can wield. In this, a special aide with a special relationship to the President can be made more powerful than other Blue House staff or even government cabinet members.

"Special aide" politics most likely leads to "inner circle" politics or "unofficial" politics. President Roh may still be able to repeal his decision or cut the number of aides to be appointed. Better late than never, as they say.