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‘No one debriefed the president’

Posted January. 27, 2018 07:21,   

Updated January. 27, 2018 08:06


There was some controversy over the allegation that U.S. President Donald Trump did not bother to read even one-page briefing reports. However, he reportedly does not avoid heated debate when receiving face-to-face briefings. CIA Director Mike Pompeo has recently said he goes to the White House and gives face-to-face briefings almost every day. He spends about 30 to 40 minutes on each briefing, and he and the president sometimes engage in heated debate over pending issues that emerged overnight.

Attorney Yoo Yeong-ha, who served as legal counsel for former President Park Geun-hye, said in a recent media interview, “Former President Park was never debriefed on Choi Soon-sil from the National Intelligence Service, police or senior presidential secretary for civil affairs. The former president is lamenting that why no one debriefed about Choi.” We cannot blindly trust what Yoo had to say, but if his remarks were true, state bodies and Park’s aides who should have informed her of situations and issues effectively blocked information from reaching the president.

However, before Park can blame her aides for the Choi Soon-sil scandal, we wonder whether the former president created an environment wherein information was blocked from her. Many people have said that while having face-to-face briefings, Park reportedly expressed anger and discomfort when she was debriefed on matters she found uncomfortable. “When (I) told President Park after the Sewol ferry disaster that when reshuffling government organizations, you should hear opinions from Cabinet members and people against the reshuffle, but she expressed anger, saying, ‘Do I have to listen to everyone in Korea?” former Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Yoo Jin-ryong once testified. It is believed that Park would have gravely stared at him at the moment as well. If she had accepted findings in an investigational report on her ex-assistant Chung Yoon-hoi and suspicion over his intervention in state affairs from the presidential secretary for public office discipline as was, she would had not found herself in detention.

Furthermore, Park was obsessed with written reporting rather than face-to-face reporting. Even in the wake of the Sewol disaster, she only received debriefings in writing and over the phone. As a result, she failed to grasp the gravity of real situation. The presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae is often called “palace within none-layer walls.” This means that external situations are not reported properly and accurately to the president due to layers of people surrounding him or her. If the presidential office is to dump the dishonorable nickname of “palace within nine-layer walls,” the chief executive should open his or her eyes and ears widely.

Kwang-Pyo Lee kplee@donga.com