The Korea Herald


Cheong Wa Dae perks up under new chief

By Hong Dam-young

Published : May 12, 2017 - 17:54

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President Moon Jae-in vowed to do something which his ousted predecessor Park Geun-hye never set out to do -- break down boundaries with the administrative staff, the media, and the public in general.

Reflecting its new chief’s casual tone and manner, as well as his open-minded gestures, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae is set to depart from its old formalities and open itself to the inquiring nation.

Amid a tightly packed schedule on Friday, his third day as the nation’s 19th president, Moon arranged time at noon to eat with rank-and-file employees, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

President Moon Jae-in poses for a selfie with employees of the Incheon International Airport Corp. on Friday, after making a pledge to promote the airport‘s temporary workers into regular employees. (Yonhap) President Moon Jae-in poses for a selfie with employees of the Incheon International Airport Corp. on Friday, after making a pledge to promote the airport‘s temporary workers into regular employees. (Yonhap)
The president’s lunch with the staff was an extremely rare occasion under the former President Park who, unless for official ceremonies, always ate alone in the privacy of her office or residence.

On the previous day, the state chief lunched with members of his newly appointed secretariat and took a stroll in the Blue House’s garden, holding a cup of coffee in his hand just like any ordinary office worker around town.

The scene immediately went viral, the apparent unconstrained mood and the cheerful look on the participants’ faces marking the new government from the stilted press photos describing the former Park administration.

Further contributing to the vigor was the relatively young age of the secretariat staff -- Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok is 51, in contrast to Kim Ki-choon who was 73 when he took on the role under Park in 2013.

Such actions for communication have so far been well received by the public.

According to a survey released by the Korea Social Opinion Institute on Thursday, 83.8 percent of the respondents said that they expect President Moon to “perform well” in state affairs. The figure was more than double his actual election turnout which was 41.1 percent.

President Moon also took the closest move to realizing his campaign pledge to become a “Gwanghwamun president,” suggesting to relocate the president’s main workplace from the secluded mountainside to the high streets of Gwanghwamun so as to reach out more freely to the people.

As an initial move, he decided to step out of the presidential sanctuary as much as possible and associate more closely with secretariat members and the administrative staff.

“The president has often pledged to turn Cheong Wa Dae into an open space which may freely reach out to and communicate with the people, and thus wished to work in the vicinity of his advisers,” Moon’s chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan told reporters Friday in a briefing.

Official ceremonies will continue to take place in the main presidential building but when it comes to daily operations, the president will use a separate office located in the secretariat complex, according to Yoon.

This will allow all presidential advisers to actively communicate with their chief and to freely discuss the president’s agendas, he also added.

The complex, located some 500 meters from the main office, incorporates the presidential secretariat offices, the national security office and other administrative departments.

The non-accessibility of the president’s office and residence have been the subject of dispute for some time, since former President Park refused to explain her seven hours spent at the official residence on the day of the Sewol ferry sinking in 2014.

Moon also gestured to actively communicate with the press, himself making a key announcement in public and vowing not to discriminate against media companies.

“We are figuring out ways to open up more for smaller news media outlets, many of which have been denied access to the Blue House under the previous government,“ said Kwun Hyuk-ki, director of the presidential press center Chunchugwan.

By Bae Hyun-jung (