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[Opinion] Cheong Wa Dae’s Secretaries

Posted July. 28, 2006 03:45,   


There is an adage that says, “Power belongs to whoever holds the door handle.” It means that close associates controlling the paths to the person in power as well as information routes to him or her are truly powerful. Zhao Gao, the chief eunuch during the Qin Dynasty of China, was such a person. When Emperor Shi suddenly died, he sprinkled salt on the dead emperor’s body so that his death would not become known. Gaining time, Zhao fabricated the false decree ordering the successor to the throne, eldest Prince Fu Su, to kill himself in the name of his father. Afterwards, Zhao crowned the youngest son, the least bright of his brothers, as a puppet emperor and wielded omnipotent power.

In the Chinese history of dynasties there are legendary tyrannies exerted by close associates. An aging and dying emperor writes with a calligraphy brush on the hand of a eunuch “shi si,” which is the number 14 written in Chinese characters. The emperor had selected his 14th son as his successor. However, on his way out the eunuch licks off with his tongue the character “Shi” or 10. Hence the fourth son inherits the throne and the emperor passes away. The eunuch had originally been favoring the fourth son, and by his actions, he just became the chairman of the “Committee to Succeed Power” and the world came to his grasp.

The situation is not much different in the U.S. either. The level of power depends on where one’s office is located, or how close is it to the West Wing, the president’s office. Meeting the president often is power itself. The job of Cheong Wa Dae’s protocol secretary or personal secretary is to arrange the president’s meeting schedule. Legally they don’t hold a great power. Nevertheless, in real life, their power is enormous, because they hold the keys to the president’s door.

Cheong Wa Dae’s influential secretary list has been revealed. The list was included in a high governmental officials’ list and divided into alphabetical groups. The protocol secretary, personal secretary, chief of the Office of Information and Policy Monitoring, general affairs secretary, speech secretary, communications planning secretary, civil affairs secretary, personnel affairs secretary, security strategy secretary, and the spokesperson were listed as belonging to the group A, or the top group. It is reported that they annually earn a maximum of 10 million won more than those government official in other ministries belonging to group E.

If they are close associates of the president, they should be clean according to power they hold and willing to provide bitter advice. President’s aides should learn a lesson from the yesterday’s bi-election result that a politician known as “Mr. Bitter Advice” who led the impeachment of the president has revived his political life.

Kim Chung-sik, Editorial Writer, skim@donga.com