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A very strange meeting

Jan 08,2019
It has been revealed that a junior Blue House official made a phone call to Army chief of staff, Gen. Kim Yong-woo and met him at a cafe during the sensitive general-level promotion period. During the meeting that took place in Seoul in September 2017 — four months after the start of the liberal Moon Jae-in administration — an Army colonel working at the National Security Office in the Blue House also joined the meeting. The colonel was promoted to brigadier general in December that year. The meeting raises suspicions for several reasons.

Above all, it is very strange that a junior officer working in the Personnel Affairs Office at the Blue House — not an official from the Office of the Senior Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs — met with the Army’s chief commander who has the right to recommend candidates to become generals. The Blue House said the junior official met the Army chief of staff to learn about how the Army selects and advances candidates to the general rank and above. But even if that is true, it does not make sense for the Army’s chief commander to explain its promotion procedure to a junior Blue House official.

When a presidential aide meets government officials, he or she usually chooses their offices or meeting rooms in the Blue House. We can hardly accept Blue House spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom’s excuse that the junior official might have found it difficult to enter the Defense Ministry building due to complex procedures for entry.

A fundamental question is whether the official tried to meddle in personnel affairs. If he did, it constitutes a serious case of power abuse. As it turns out, the colonel who accompanied the junior official was advanced to brigadier general later that year.

Blue House spokesman Kim came up with the explanation that a presidential secretary can talk to the Army chief of staff about his boss’ direction for general-level promotions. But his remarks are nonsense. The Army’s system for general-level promotions must follow this procedure: if an Army chief of staff submits a list of candidates to the defense minister, they should review it together with chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and report the results to the president. Moreover, the Blue House colonel was punished after losing documents regarding general-level promotions. He said he had lost them while smoking after putting them in his car. That only further fuels our suspicions. The Blue House must explain if the lost documents really had something do with the two-month delay in the Army’s general-level promotions in 2017. The Blue House must clear all suspicions before it is too late.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 8, Page 30