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Special Adviser vs. Nat’l Security Secretary

Posted May. 12, 2010 13:36,   


The post of special adviser for national security was created in the wake of the sinking of the naval patrol ship Cheonan. What is the difference between the special adviser and the senior presidential secretary for national security? In a word, the adviser will have little to do. He will not be paid since no such post exists in the organization of the presidential office. Like special presidential adviser for public reconciliation Kim Deok-ryong and special adviser for political affairs Maeng Hyung-kyu, the special adviser for national security will advise President Lee Myung-bak when asked.

The crisis situation center under the office of the senior presidential secretary for national security has been upgraded to a crisis management center. The former’s main role was to the report a crisis situation, but the latter will focus on preventing a crisis. The crisis situation center was led by an official from the National Intelligence Service, but the crisis management center will be led by a brigadier general. The media incorrectly reported that the new center will be led by the special adviser for national security, but it will instead remain under the senior presidential secretary for national security. The special adviser will only advise on the center`s management.

The two pillars of national security are diplomacy, which deals with alliances, and defense, which prepares for battle. The Cheonan incident has shown that demand for defense is high in the country. An expert in diplomacy deservedly served as senior presidential secretary for national security when a former general was president. Under a civilian president, however, the situation should be the other way around or a balance should be struck. Thirteen figures have served as the secretary or a similar post since the Kim Young-sam administration. Of them, three were military experts. Under the incumbent Lee Myung-bak administration, professors and diplomats have assumed the post.

The idea of creating the special adviser post after the Cheonan incident looks similar to the idea of forming an investigative team on government corruption after the bribery scandal involving prosecutors broke out. To enhance national security, the appointment of a competent security expert to the post of special adviser for national security is necessary, rather than establishing a post with no power. U.S. President Harry Truman, who ended World War II by dropping atomic bombs on Japan and made a quick decision to send troops when the Korean War broke out, placed a sign reading “The buck stops here” on his desk. The president holds the highest position in national security. If he wants to keep the highest level of national security, he must appoint the best national security expert to a post with real authority.

Editorial Writer Lee Jeong-hoon (hoon@donga.com)