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‘What is this?’

Feb 15,2020
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Park Jae-hyun
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Last year, a source, who had joined a dinner party hosted by an influential figure in the administration and his wife, complained to me how uncomfortable he had been at the time. Things went well until he was asked to take a photo after the meal. Two big chairs were brought in, and the couple sat while he and other guests stood.

“What is this?”

He was puzzled at first and became angry as he left. “That’s why I condemn this administration.” He said that the Blue House aides and government officials’ perspectives on the current state really have problems. He claimed that the sweet taste of power lowered empathy.

What made Choe Kang-wook, presidential secretary for civil service discipline, bold enough to criticize the prosecutor general for an unfair indictment, calling him the first person to be investigated by the investigative agency for high-level officials? Did he lose reason after sudden promotion? It is hard to find the presence of his boss, Senior Secretary for Civil Affairs Kim Jo-won.

So some believe that Secretary Kim is pushed by young secretaries with activist backgrounds. Perhaps Chief of Staff Noh Young-min is reluctant to give power to Secretary Kim. The two reportedly are in an uncomfortable relationship after an incident in 2015. In the background of the media report about Noh, who was an assemblyman at the time, was the party’s internal inspection team. Kim, who was in charge of the party’s internal inspection, asked for a strict punishment, and Noh got a six-month suspension of party membership and did not run in the general elections.

The Cho Kuk case, Ulsan Mayor Song Cheol-ho’s election campaign and the Wooridul Hospital loan case caused social discord, and the secretary for civil affairs has yet to play any role.

I don’t perceive it as proper state administration when the secretary for public communication criticized the prosecutors, and individual secretaries confront the prosecutors and opposition parties.

Three months have passed since the Ulsan case, where 13 people, including the mayor, who is a friend of the president of 30 years, his campaign aides and a Blue House secretary were indicted, but I cannot find any plan to resolve this. Vain words like “unilateral claims by the prosecutors” and “fabrication of public documents based on false facts,” are rampant.

After being indicted for a charge of drafting a mudslinging document, little remorse is shown, saying “prosecutors’ investigation actually made me free, and there wouldn’t be any change about myself after the trial.” What about the citizens who entrusted him with economic policies and followed him? How should the people respond after hoping the city will revive as an industrial one?

The secretary for civil affairs of the Moon Jae-in administration made it clear that he would not intervene in prosecutors’ investigations as his predecessors in previous administrations had. But as it is “civil affairs,” the function of caring for the livelihoods and circumstances of the people is not eliminated.

When Secretary Kim was appointed, legal professionals predicted that public office discipline was an important task for him, and Justice Minister Cho Kuk would be in charge of judicial affairs and prosecutors. As Minister Cho resigned, President Moon’s plan has faltered.
Regardless of the circumstances, a Blue House secretary has been indicted by a state investigative agency. What’s the role of the chief secretary when the secretary makes threats to the people and mentions a “coup” like a president or an emperor? It is a major miscalculation to think a case involving five former presidential secretaries is not related to him.

As many ruling party lawmakers are concerned, the public sentiment on the streets is not necessarily sweet to the administration. If the sovereign right of the citizens is infringed, and fair election, which is the basic of democracy, was rejected, there should be an explanation at the administration level. Do they think remaining silent is politically more advantageous?

President Moon has issued more apologies than I thought while in office. He apologized for not attaining a minimum wage increase to 10,000 won ($8.50) per hour, the flawed Sewol ferry rescue and for not properly caring for the victims of the humidifier chemicals incident. He also apologized for the Oct. 27 Buddhist suppression in 1980 and for the Vietnam War. But I was not moved because these apologies were necessary. When an apology was actually needed, he ignored or did not address it. The secretary of civil affairs should look into the public sentiment. The negligence that the administration used as a justification for eradication of longstanding evils is not far. If they cannot remember, they should read the indictment of the former Secretary for Civil Affairs Woo Byung-woo.