Posted May. 04, 2009 07:56,
Despite President Lee Myung-baks promise of small government, the staff of his administration have expanded 8.5 percent since his inauguration.
On March 28 last year, soon after the inauguration of his administration, 481 staff worked at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae, including the chief of staff and low-ranking officials.
The office added 18 members in early July last year after mass protests broke out against the decision to resume U.S. beef imports. The presidential public relations staff were expanded based on the decision that lack of communication with the public led to the protests.
The office of the senior presidential secretary for political affairs set up the office of the secretary for civil society, while the office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs also added nine staff members.
In addition, the presidential office restored the crisis information team, which had been shut down after its launch.
By contrast, the office of the senior presidential secretary for state affairs planning lost nine staff members when it merged two teams for state projects into one. That of the secretary for planning and management also shed several staff.
Cheong Wa Dae, however, added one or two staff members for each senior presidential secretarys office, bringing its number of staff to around 520.
○ Bigger PR office
Established in June last year through the merger of two offices, the office of the senior presidential officer for public relations showed the biggest increase in personnel with a rise of 62 percent, becoming the second-largest office in Cheong Wa Dae after the office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs.
Among offices opening with the inauguration of the Lee administration, the office of the senior presidential secretary for political affairs showed the biggest increase rate of 32.4 percent. The office of the presidential spokesman also expanded its staff nearly 19 percent.
Critics question whether such staff increases have resulted in better performance for the administration.
There has long been criticism that the office of the senior secretary for political affairs has not shown a good enough performance to justify the size of its staff, said an official at Cheong Wa Dae. Considering the overlapping duties between the offices of the public affairs planning officer and spokesman, their productivity will not be so great.
Amid the global economic crisis, the office of the senior presidential secretary for economic affairs saw its staff members reduced to 42 from last year`s 50 due to a merger between the offices of the presidential economic and financial secretaries. Instead, the emergency economic situation room in Cheong Wa Daes underground bunker is performing tasks similar to those of the office of the senior secretary for economic affairs.
A Cheong Wa Dae official said yesterday that the staff of the emergency situation room are not counted as regular presidential staff because the room is a temporary organization of officials dispatched from government ministries.
○ Unresolved downsizing pledge
Park Jae-wan, senior presidential secretary for state affairs planning who headed President Lees transition team for government innovation and reform, said the team proposed a cut of 20 percent in Cheong Wa Dae staff to streamline the office and clarify its authority and responsibility.
The presidential office, however, is now bigger than what it was under former President Roh Moo-hyun. Several of President Lees staff members added later are even embroiled in scandals causing public criticism.
One Cheong Wa Dae official said, The presidential office once urged small government but is now increasing the number of its own staff members. What excuses can it make in the face of criticism?