Posted February. 28, 2015 07:16,
President Park Geun-hye on Friday appointed Lee Byung-kee, director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), as her new chief of staff. Min Kyung-wook, a spokesman for the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, said, "We expect the new chief of staff to lead the presidential staff well and open a path of communication between the presidential office and the people because he is well-versed in international and inter-Korean relations and has political capability and leadership." It is true that unlike a prime minister or a government minister, a presidential chief of staff should be one who can keep in step and have conversations with the president. As Lee is a key member of the pro-Park group who served as her political advisor for a long time, he is expected to display strong grip on and drive for his job in the third year of the president`s term in office.
However, the appointment of the incumbent spy chief as the new presidential chief of staff just eight months after he took the top post at the NIS could invite political misunderstandings. Immediately after his appointment, the main opposition party expressed concern that it would "raise the specter of politics by intelligence and public security." Lee was named the spy chief in June 2014, when the NIS was under heavy pressure for political neutrality. President Park probably had to quickly fill the position of the presidential chief of staff ahead of her planned trip to the Middle East on Sunday. Still, the latest appointment affirmed once again that the president has a narrow pool of people for key government posts.
The president also named three lawmakers as her special political advisors, even though Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, asked her to reconsider the plan, Kim told the president that she should directly communicate with the party leadership and appointing the party`s lawmakers as her political advisors would cause confusion. There are concerns that the special political advisors could rather cause disruptions in the president`s communication. It is also against the principle of division of power for incumbent lawmakers to serve as the president`s advisors.
The public has long demanded that the president change her closed style in running state affairs. It is why she was flooded with calls for an overhaul of her staff. When Park was running for president in 2012, she made controversial remarks about pro-democracy activists who were executed or jailed during a massive government crackdown under her father, late President Park Chung-hee, inviting severe public criticism. At that time, Lee advised her to "get over with her father." Unlike his predecessor who was very loyal to the president`s will, Lee should play a role as a chief of staff who can speak frankly to his boss.
After filling key government posts with lawmakers loyal to her, the president also appointed some of her closest confidants as her chief of staff and special political advisors to complete the rearrangement of her administration in the third year of her five-year term. Just as the president stressed several days ago that the ruling party, the administration and her office are jointly responsible for state affairs, she should give more power to her prime minister and the Cabinet as well as frequently meet politicians of both the ruling and the main opposition parties to learn about the public sentiment. The new chief of staff should also be faithful to his duty as a "secretary" to normalize the operation of the presidential secretariat.