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President Roh’s Aide Comes to the Fore in the Second Half of His Term

President Roh’s Aide Comes to the Fore in the Second Half of His Term

Posted August. 26, 2005 03:06,   


President Roh Moo-hyun, who completed the first half of his five-year term yesterday, appointed Lee Byung-wan, former senior presidential secretary for public information, as the new presidential chief of staff for the second half of his presidency.

Lee was a journalist working as the head of economics department of Hankook Ilbo. After serving as a secretary for public information under the Kim Dae-jung administration, Lee served as presidential secretary for planning, coordination and political planning, and senior presidential secretary for public information under the incumbent government. Lee, who resigned over health problems six months ago, has returned to Cheong Wa Dae.

Chief of Staff’s Role to Change from Management-Style to Political-Style-

Many expect that the new chief of staff’s role will be different from that of former chief of staff Kim Woo-sik. They say that the new chief of staff’s role for political affairs will expand.

Since former chief of staff Kim Woo-sik, who served as president of Yonsei University, has faithfully acted as a mediator joining conservative groups with the government, Kim’s role has been seen as a manager for state affairs. By contrast, Lee has a good political sense. That’s why many expect their roles will be different.

In a briefing, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Man-soo explained, “Since the new chief of staff has lots of experience and relations with those in each field, including the political and media sectors, he is a well-qualified person to effectively back up the president’s state affairs management by reasonably gathering public sentiment and opinion and using his excellent planning and judgment.”

Even if Lee was once a head economic journalist, his political career has been accumulated in political affairs.

In the 2002 presidential election, Lee supported President Roh by mapping out major campaign pledges such as the relocation of the administrative city as a standing vice chairman of the party policy committee. At that time, Lee is said to have played a considerable role in the process of unifying then-candidates Roh and Chung Mong-joon into a single candidate.

After the April 15 general election of last year, the president did away with the post of senior presidential secretary for political affairs, but the new chief of staff has privately taken care of political affairs.

Is His Appointment to Strengthen Cheong Wa Dae’s Relationship With Roh’s Close Aides?-

With Lee’s appointment to chief of staff, the presidential office was reorganized into a structure consisting of the president’s close aides. Among them are Lee, chief secretary for national policy Kim Byung-joon, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs Moon Jae-in, and chief secretary for state affairs monitoring Lee Ho-cheol.

Many expect that given the decentralization of powers, Lee will act as a coordinator, rather than exert powerful leadership in Cheong Wa Dae. A Cheong Wa Dae official stressed, “The new appointment of chief of staff means a transfer into ‘joint management by chief of staff and senior presidential secretaries.’”

In some sectors, there are also skeptical views that Lee may not fully control the presidential office due to this multi-headed system. Meanwhile, regarding this appointment, Grand National Party spokeswoman Chun Yu-ok criticized, “This appointment is a typical case showing the president’s revolving-door style of personnel management,” adding, “We are skeptical of whether the new chief of staff played a proper role as presidential secretary for political planning and senior presidential secretary for public information.”

Yeon-Wook Jung jyw11@donga.com