Go to contents

Pres.-elect to Narrow Distance with People

Posted January. 21, 2008 08:16,   


President-elect Lee Myung-bak will have more contact with the people, breaking away from his secluded office in Seoul. He will seek group talks during provincial visits and less protection at outdoor events, his closest aides said yesterday.

▽Provincial visits for small group discussions

His talks in the provinces to start next week will take on the form of small group discussions, instead of large assemblies as previously suggested by the Government Administration and Home Affairs Ministry.

The ministry’s suggestion got the idea from outgoing President Roh Moo-hyun, who traveled nationwide to meet around 100-300 people, including provincial officials and business leaders, to discuss balanced national development.

Lee’s secretarial office said Roh’s meetings were too large in scale to hold in-depth discussions and proved one-sided rather than achieving interactive communication.

“When there are 300 people, we will probably spend one hour and half hours shaking hands and taking photos,” one of Lee’s aides said. “We took a more pragmatic approach following his order because he hates formalities.”

“His visits to the provinces will be an opportunity to listen to business leaders and shop owners at traditional markets, and take the pressing issues of the areas into his hands.”

Lee will visit the two Jeolla provinces Thursday, followed by four other provinces later this month.

▽ Shunning heavy security

Lee told close aides to give him less security to allow greater public access to him at events.

“The president-elect seems to feel that tightened security after the election is distancing himself from the people,” said one aide. “He wants to project a friendly and humble image. His worry is that being the president-elect himself makes it difficult.”

Let alone the greater protection given to him, Lee is apparently aware of the distance the public naturally feels toward the highest authority, and is trying to narrow that gap. When he found that chairs were a sizable distance apart at a meeting with economic experts Friday, he asked for a tighter circle.

He also demonstrates a willingness to listen to others at meetings. He usually starts meetings by saying, “I’m here to listen, not to talk,” to restrain himself and his transition committee members from talking too much.

When the discussion subsides and the meeting wraps up, he encourages participants to speak more. “If you feel you won’t sleep tonight regretting that you didn’t say what you wanted, just speak now.” As a result, his meetings are often extended.

He also told his aides that he will create an atmosphere in which attendees can speak their minds at meetings.

ditto@donga.com mhpark@donga.com