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[Opinion] Pres. Bodyguards

Posted September. 11, 2008 09:05,   


Wearing black suits, dark sunglasses and earpieces, presidential bodyguards intensely watch the crowd. Whenever they are seen on TV, they look cool just like they would in a movie. The real life of a presidential bodyguard, however, requires around-the-clock tension and the willingness to sacrifice his or her life for the chief executive. “Each and every member of the presidential detail practices dying on behalf of the president every day. When their families are invited to demonstrations, they often burst into tears. Watching their husbands and sons diving into incoming bullets, how can they not cry?” said a former presidential bodyguard.

Many Koreans still remember one agent who covered then First Lady Yook Young-soo against an assassin’s bullet at a Liberation Day ceremony in 1974, reminding us of the tense readiness of the secret detail. The former head of the secret service, Cha Ji-chul, put a banner in his office reading “Protection of the President is Protection of the Nation.” But Cha failed to protect President Park Chung-hee against Korean CIA Director Kim Jae-gyu on Oct. 26, 1979. There is no sanctuary in protection of the president.

When off duty, Korean presidential bodyguards must remain disciplined and keep up their training to maintain mental and physical fitness. They must keep their tense readiness even in their private time. Even outside the presidential mansion, they have to be reachable 24/7. No wonder they avoid drinking much and keep a distance from “outsiders” since a trivial mistake might pose a grave threat to the president`s safety.

The police commander dispatched to the presidential office to supervise the presidential police force was recently dismissed from his duty due to sexual harassment. The secret service and protective team held a party after performing a demonstration in front of President Lee Myung-bak Saturday. The commander reportedly made a physical advance when making a love shot, or a "physical toast,” with a female agent. Though not a member of the presidential detail per se, the commander committed an act not to be ignored. A chasm in the teamwork of the presidential security team might pose a grave threat to national security. After watching the demonstration, President Lee said, “I should’ve listened to the team more.” After the compliment, an undesirable thing happened. That is why the incident feels more serious.

Editorial Writer Yook Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)