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[Editorial] Cheong Wa Dae Needs Reform

Posted December. 19, 2003 23:30,   


President Roh Moo-hyun vowed to push forward powerful cabinet reforms starting next year, promising to be closely involved. Looking back on the last 10 months which have been filled with turbulent political affairs, economic slowdown and uncertainty in people’s livelihoods since the launch of this new government, it hardly needs to be said that government reform is of the most importance. However, being focused on “change from a bottom-up approach” as stated by President Roh, has the priority and importance of matters hugely mixed up? Actually, the place that requires innovation the most and at the earliest date is Cheong Wa Dae.

The presumed result of the president’s designation of officials with the same views as his, without considering their ethics and skills, turned out just as expected. Those powerful aides now have to stand in court one by one for judgment on alleged involvement in scandal. In the end, the president himself cannot but have to prove his morality to the public. If President Roh had appointed figures who didn’t succumb to immorality, but were willing to advise on methods to become truly wise leaders and also possessed high-level management skills and self-sacrificing spirits to earn the public confidence, the political situation and the president’s position at this moment would not be in such a panic.

President Roh also organized the Office of Government Policy Coordination to manage overall issues for the government-operated policy, and produced every kind of committee and task force under the direction of presidential bodies and the policy planning office. However, the results turned out to be disappointing. The newly created Public Participation Office for the purpose of supporting the catchphrase “participatory government” also proved to be a failure.

Pending issues with no time to lose are being delayed until next year, but Cheong Wa Dae seems to have neither any intention nor ability to control this. There are few crucial issues in politics that do not have mixed involvements in terms of development, finance, distribution, environment, labor, culture and foreign affairs. That being said, conflicts cannot but happen. It is thus getting tough to figure out which of those political confusions are due to the disorganization in Cheong Wa Dae’s system while excluding the power of the prime minister or deputy prime minister.

Cheong Wa Dae’s reform of structure and personnel systems should avoid making only small-scale, limited changes. If it cannot get out from the so-called “reform code” approach without real change, it will fail again. President Roh has no chance to repeat trial and error in a situation where his first year appears to be just like the last year of a presidency. President Roh should conduct an apparent change with a strong mind towards reform. This will be the first step to cabinet reform.