Go to contents

Who Is No. 2 at Cheong Wa Dae?

Posted May. 27, 2003 21:39,   


There is an ongoing heated debate in and out of Cheong Wa Dae over who is the No. 2 man within the Roh Moo-hyun government.

The obvious pick would be Chief of Staff Moon Hee-sang, who should be second in Cheong Wa Dae’s hierarchy, however, there are indications that the chief of staff position is much smaller than that of past successive governments. Since this new administration came to power, Moon has kept a low profile in the process of resolving administrational issues.

He departed the country on May 23 to participate in the inauguration ceremony of the Argentine`s President though there are a lot of pending issues to be resolved. Against this backdrop there is concern that Moon has yet to find his true role.

Many presidential aides regard Moon Jae-in, senior secretary for civil affairs, as the second most powerful man. During the transition period, he played a leading role in confirmation and verification of minister and vice minister candidates and whenever issues arose, he served as a troubleshooter.

He also played a key role as a behind-the-scenes mediator when cargo workers went on strike and progressive teachers` unions staged protests on the street.

Because of his busy schedule, Moon often goes back home after 11:00 p.m. later than any other senior secretary at Cheong Wa Dae. Because of the workaholic boss, officials in the civil affairs office also do not even take holidays. There are even rumors floating around that because of overwork, Moon had three of his teeth pulled out. In fact, President Roh Moo-hyun has an absolute trust in him. It was shown in the recent reshuffling at Cheong Wa Dae, which the civil affairs office got through its scot-free.

However, Moon`s excessive power is under criticism. A presidential aide asked, "If he left Cheong Wa Dae, with whom would the president entrust his work?" He expressed concern that the current way of depending excessively on a particular figure could prove to be a big flaw.

Some close aides to the president say that it is a phenomenon shown during the transition because the eight senior secretary posts in the previous government were reduced to four.

However, many people within and out of Cheong Wa Dae expect that it is a long way to go before the original No. 2 man in Cheong Wa Dae is restored to his own post.

Young-Hae Choi yhchoi65@donga.com