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[Op-ed] What the president needs are wise aides
JUNE 10, 2014 07:14  
During the period when President Roh Moo-hyun was in office, he invited veterans of governmental organizations to dinner. At the time, there was increasing criticism that the president was being too dogmatic. Veterans told him, "Open your ears," "Listen to bitter but righteous words," "Change aides who don`t speak up for right purpose."

After veterans spoke in turns, President Roh, who was listening with an uncomfortable look, said, "I am listening to more than enough bitter, righteous words. Every day I read on the Internet swear words on me. What you said today are what I have heard a number of times already." The veterans` faces became distorted.

The president continued, saying, "What a president needs is not bitter but right words. The wisdom to well steer national affairs is what the president needs. Whom a president needs is not people who tell him bitter but right words. I need men of wisdom. Please introduce me if you know one."

The dinner ended uncomfortably. Some veterans expressed discontent to aides who saw them out. "I`m sorry because I`m not a wise man," It could have been better if the president and veterans had not met. At this point, however, it is no use quibbling over who was right and who was wrong. This is not important. Does a president hate bitter but right words? Well, he is a human being after all. Who would on earth would like to hear that the president`s actions were wrong, and that the president is thoughtless?

So is it true that a president closes the ears on bitter but right words? No. He or she doesn`t exclude them unconditionally. He or she can`t, in reality and logically. The president is always surrounded by problems. They are not easy to solve but the president has to be responsible for them for the sake of the public and history. The president takes them seriously. Sometimes, he or she would want to solve them even if it means selling the soul. President Roh proposed great coalition to the opposition parties for this reason. Being a president requires great responsibility after all.

This means that the president will not distinguish bitter words from sweet ones. This is like patients with severe disease trying to cure themselves with whatever means it takes. This is applicable to the words of veterans.

It can`t be overemphasized that wisdom is that the president needs to have. Then how can wisdom be obtained? A simple way is to have wise men on the side. Let`s take for example of Zhuge Liang, chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. Such a wise man is hard to find, however, in the current society that is too complex. A person would have a head for one thing but be dull in the other, while one would be proficient in one but lack quality in the other.

Then the second best option would be creating a wise organization with a collective wisdom. People a bit short of a specific quality can put their heads together and complement each other.

How is the Presidential Office working? Is it a wise organization that adds wisdom to the president? Unfortunately, it appears not. The president`s address to the public on the ferry Sewol wreck is one evidence. The Presidential Office made the president speak about the transfer of function to administration office, the words that lasted for just a few days.

Why is this happening? There might be no control tower that knows policies and pending national affairs. Or even if there is one, it could lack functions to gather and adjust the various opinions. This is why there is a silo among aides. As a result, the lack of quality and bias not being filtered are delivered to the president.

People say President Park Geun-hye is authoritative and this is why her aides can`t get the words out properly. If this is the case, it becomes even more important for the aides to more freely exchange opinions each other and obtain more wisdom to persuade the president. Does the Presidential Office`s aides organization has leadership or system to facilitate such conversation and opinion exchange?

All these assumptions should be untrue. Yet one can`t deny that there is a problem. Repair is needed in whatever way. The Presidential Office should become a wise organization that adds wisdom to the president.

As for the public, it should remember that bitter and right words are not all. What counts are wise advices. More consideration is needed on the part of the public to what they can do to make this possible.

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