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Breaking down President  Park Geun-hye's U.S. Congressional speech in word cloud
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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on Aug. 7)
Shakeup of staff
Anxiety precedes anticipation on new Blue House lineup

President Park Geun-hye seldom changes her secretaries and Cabinet ministers unless they commit grave mistakes. Or so people have said. So the abrupt replacement of her chief of staff and four other aides Monday, less than six months into office, came as quite surprising and strange.

   For now, however, it may be appropriate to respect the President's right to pick her own people if it is necessary for a "stronger push" of policy agenda and making a "new start," as Park's spokesman said.

   In a way, the outgoing chief of staff, Huh Tae-yeol, should have gone far earlier given his failure to properly assist the President, especially in personnel appointments. Nothing showed the risk of appointing untested figures to key posts than the disgraced former spokesman, Yoon Chang-jung who spoiled Park's U.S. visit in May with a sexual harassment scandal.

   But the problem is the lineup of the new team.

   In every respect, Park's new chief of staff, Kim Ki-choon, is not a man of the future, or even the present, but of the past, and an inglorious past at that.

   The resume of the 74-year-old former justice minister and three-term lawmaker appears thick enough to qualify him for the new post.

   But Kim has too notorious a track record to play a major role in 21st- century Korea: he was one of the key architects of the "Yushin (Revitalization Reform) Constitution" aimed to perpetuate ex-President Park Chung-hee's dictatorial rule, and set a bad precedent for unlawful meddling in elections involving government employees, namely the police and the prosecution. It defies our understanding why the incumbent president, who is also under fire for an election-related scandal involving the state spy agency, chose the "original" mastermind of election maneuvering as her new chief of staff.

   Equally incomprehensible was Park's appointment of Park Jun-woo, a career diplomat but political novice, as her top political liaison officer, who should serve as the bridge between Cheong Wa Dae and the legislative branch, especially the opposition parties. If the appointment reflects Park's mentality to keep distance from realpolitik, Koreans will have to watch a lot more political strife.

   With the latest appointment, President Park has made it clear she would leave national security-diplomacy to former soldiers, and domestic administration to former prosecutors and bureaucrats, as her father did in the 1970s. Add to this the fact that the average age of Park's "seven mentors," including the new chief of staff, is 75, and most Koreans are puzzled about how these people can advise the president on economic democratization and a future-oriented economy.

   A presidential chief of staff should be able to speak plainly about public opinions and the mistakes of his or her boss. In other words, the second person in the presidential office should act as an opposition party within Cheong Wa Dae. None could be further away from this than the new appointee, say people who know him well.

   When she led the ruling party, Park used to advise former President Lee Myung-bak to better communicate with the people. She must practice what she preached instead of surrounding herself with human walls of yes-men. Or Koreans may soon have to witness another new beginning.