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A big Blue House

July 28,2018
In a move to revamp the Blue House, President Moon Jae-in increased the number of his secretaries and strengthened his control over public relations and the policy function of his aides, while increasing their budgets as well. We understand his decision, as seen in the establishment of a secretary handling issues involving small business owners to deal with their strong resistance to the government’s drastic minimum wage increase for next year.

The Blue House is also going in the right direction by paying attention to the coordination among his secretaries and their mid and long-term plans. The trouble is the possibility of the presidential office turning into a “second cabinet.”

The liberal administration has been under attack for the Blue House’s domineering posture over government ministries. That is not confined to North Korea policy or controversial minimum wage hikes. In fact, the Blue House has been controlling all aspects of government policies since Moon was elected president last year.

Political pundits ridicule the Blue House for pompously ignoring the cabinet and taking the lead in all policy initiatives. That is a sharp departure from what Moon’s Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok said when he took the job. He vowed to not take the upper hand in administering the nation.

If government officials must turn to the Blue House every time a significant issue comes up, that surely forces bureaucrats to make as few decisions as possible.

If the presidential office dictates every government policy, heads of ministries will have nothing to do. The malpractices of the Park Geun-hye administration also originated with such a posture. Ministers, who were simply writing down her commands, ended up aiding her on her tragic path toward impeachment.

Moon pledged to create a Blue House that keeps a low profile so as not to repeat Park’s mistakes. He meant it to say his Blue House will not take a domineering stance over the administration.

That is not an easy job. Despite all the commitments by previous administrations to create a small Blue House, it only got bigger. The size of its Secretariat was the largest during the Roh Moo-hyun presidency despite his strong will to decentralize. Moon’s Blue House has 100 more staff than the White House.

Moon must give more power to ministers. To achieve the goal, he must demonstrate his determination through actions. That’s what he promised in his campaign.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 28, Page 34