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[Opinion] Political Disciplinarian

Posted March. 15, 2007 07:04,   


When former Prime Minister Kang Yeong-hun presided over a Cabinet meeting shortly after taking office, during the Roh Tae-woo administration, a chief presidential secretary, who was sitting on a back row seat, tried to deliver a message, claiming it was from “Mr. President.” It was common practice at that time, however, Kang’s scolding echoed in the meeting room. “Who is it? How dare you try to meddle in the ministers’ meeting,” Kang screamed, obviously aware of whom he was addressing.

Former President Kim Dae-jung even banned his chief of staff from making a speech. Jeon Yun-churl, who became Kim’s chief of staff after retiring as Planning and Budget Minister, often criticized the remarks of ministers at the Cabinet meeting. Jeon was often referred to as “Mr. Ranter,” and eventually received a gag order from the president, saying, “Do not ever pass a remark during the Cabinet meeting.

The Cabinet meeting reviews important government policies according to Article 88 of the Constitution. The president serves as chairman, the prime minister as vice-chairman and ministers as members of the meeting. “The acts of the President under state law shall be executed in writing, and such documents shall be countersigned by the Prime Minister and the members of the Cabinet meeting,” Article 88 of the Constitution says. The Cabinet meeting is a very official occasion and the chief of staff is not a member of the meeting. Although he attends the meeting, he is just “an assistant of the president,” who does not have any legal liability.

“If a problem breaks out, (the civil servant who caused the problem) is often sent to a province. And this has been hurting the pride of provincial people,” Moon Jae-in, chief presidential secretary, said on Tuesday. His remarks were specifically aimed at the prosecutors. The members of a prosecutor investigation team, who conducted illegal investigations to link the presidential secretary for audit and inspection to the corruption case of the JU group, were transferred to a provincial branch. Although Moon’s remark made a relevant point, some analysts view it as a sign indicating that the administration is about to “discipline the prosecutors.” In fact, Moon’s remark was followed by the comments of the president and Health and Welfare Minister, Rhyu Si-min, saying that they would not hold a grudge against the prosecutors involved in the case. I hope Moon remembers his duties as the chief secretary of the president.

Kim Chang-hyuk, Editorial Writer, chang@donga.com