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“Public Anger is Too Extreme to Just Let It Go,” Says Cheong Wa Dae

“Public Anger is Too Extreme to Just Let It Go,” Says Cheong Wa Dae

Posted January. 10, 2005 22:00,   


The resignation of Lee Ki-jun, the vice prime minister and education minister, is creating quite a stir as it has led to the resignation of six core aides at Cheong Wa Dae en masse, including Kim Woo-sik, the chief secretary.

This massive resignation wave amounts to a political crisis faced to President Roh Moo-hyun, who resolved to make a fresh start in the middle phase of his presidency by reshuffling his six cabinets, in that loopholes in the participatory government’s much touted “personnel system” have resulted in the crisis.

In fact, his surprise visit to the Zaytun Unit stationed in Iraq in early December last year and his seemingly strong determination for integrative governance finally helped the public have favorable feelings for the government. However, the recent obvious signs that they are now turning their back on it are adding to Cheong Wa Dae’s agony.

President Roh’s unprecedentedly prompt apology to the public during luncheon with Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan, when he said, “I am sorry for recent controversies and troubles,” seems to indicate his strong will to resolve the crisis at the earliest. This is the first time for the President to offer an apology by himself for appointment problems.

A core official at Cheong Wa Dae reports that the resignation announcement of the group of aides including Kim Woo-sik was decided on after prior consultation with the president to some extent. The official noted, “Voices began to arise to hold Cheong Wa Dae aides accountable in the afternoon on January 7 when the former vice prime minister publicized his will to resign. As far as I know, there was accordingly a somewhat shared feeling that the president and chief of secretary Kim should do something about it.”

For sure, the President did not mention issues regarding holding his secretariats responsible, but merely touched on limits and problems of the government’s personnel system and ways to improve them during a luncheon with Prime Minister Lee.

However, chances are that he, by not turning down their resignations immediately, will call them to account selectively after closely following public opinion and the thoughts of the ruling circle.

Rumors have it that the president, during the luncheon meeting that day, stressed the importance of public opinion when he mentioned the fact that some aides aggravated the public’s anger by accentuating vice prime minister Lee’s integrity while dealing with the case.

Against this backdrop, it is expected that the issue of holding Cheong Wa Dae aides responsible will be concluded in one way or another. Most notably, observers expect the president’s top personnel officer, Jeong Chan-yong, in charge of overall personnel affairs, and top civil officer Park Jeong-kyu, responsible for the examination of appointees, will have to take preliminary responsibility.

Yet, some expect chief of secretary Kim Woo-sik will be highly likely to remain in office, as there are increasingly vocal arguments that recommending personnel is one thing and examining them is quite another. Their expectations are supported by the fact that Kim’s dismissal would naturally lead to that of vice prime minister Lee, and that his discharge would call for the need to re-examine the keynote of the overall national governance, as he has spoken for the views of rational conservatives.

Of late, Kim has been frequently contacting senior businessmen and high-ranking media officials to serve as a bridge connecting the government and business and media circles, practicing the “tolerance and cooperation” the president has emphasized.

Jung-Hun Kim jnghn@donga.com