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President Roh Backs Close Aide Again

Posted May. 16, 2005 23:28,   


President Roh Moo-hyun appointed Kim Doo-kwan (46), former minister of government administrations and home affairs, to presidential aide for political affairs.

Accordingly, the number of special advisers for the president has increased to five with Lee Jeong-woo for policy planning, Kim Hyuck-gyu for economy, Kim Hwa-joong for health and welfare, and Lee Byung-wan for public relations.

President Roh’s appointment of Kim Doo-kwan seems to be more from consideration than vesting a special role. The position of a special aide is an honorary position without remuneration, but is symbolic in that he/she is a “close person to the president” in external activities.

President Roh selected Kim as the minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs at the launch of the current government, and when a proposal to dismiss the former minister passed the National Assembly, the president refused the dismissal for a while, praising “(Former) Minister Kim is the symbol of the Korean dream.”

Kim is highly favored by President Roh, even called “Little Roh Moo-hyun.” He ran for the Gyeongnam Province governor position in the 2002 local elections but was defeated, and failed in last year’s April 15 general elections in his hometown, Namhae-Hadong in Gyeongnam Province. Kim also fell in the Uri Party’s leadership race in the April 2 national convention, and has been without a definite foothold all the while.

There are interpretations for “looking after major nonmember personnel from the Yeongnam region.” President Roh has placed his longtime political confidant Lee Kang-cheol from Daegu as his senior presidential political secretary and Song Cheol-ho, a lawyer from Ulsan, as chief (ministerial level) of the Ombudsman of Korea.

However, it seems that the appointment of Kim will bring about controversy on the party-government separation principle that President Roh has been emphasizing.

President Roh had said at a dinner gathering with Uri Party leaders last June 4, “The politics special aide system will be abolished to remove unnecessary misunderstandings of the relationship between the party and the president.” Accordingly, former chief presidential secretary Moon Hee-sang, who was the special aide for politics, gave up his special aide position. The title special politics aide has changed to special political affairs aide, but seeing that President Roh has made a place for Kim, some are saying that the president is “eating his words.” In the meantime, Kim said, “I have been at the head of the local administration and ran in the local elections eight times, so I will do all that I can, going all around the nation for next year’s local elections.” He added, “President Roh gave a call about 10 days ago and asked what I planned to do, and I answered that if there is a role for decentralization and balancing national development, I would do it. President Roh then answered that he would entrust the special aide position to me, asking that I should do my best.”

Jung-Hun Kim jnghn@donga.com