The White House would be a model for reforming Yoon’s presidential office

SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) — An upcoming government reform being considered by President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol centers on diminishing the power of the presidential office and increasing Cabinet discretion to end the controversial imperial presidential system, officials close to him said on Tuesday.

Yoon, a prosecutor-turned-politician, reportedly made the White House a model not only for the layout of his new presidential office, but also for the operation of the presidential secretariat and cabinet.

The most notable change is expected to be the disappearance of the senior presidential secretary system from Yoon’s presidential office, officials said.

Instead, the ideal form of government envisioned by Yoon is one where ministers and deputy ministers of each government ministry essentially work as secretaries to the president, they noted.

“The current structure, in which ministers and deputy ministers report to senior presidential secretaries, who then report to the president, is strange,” said an official from Yoon’s transition team.

“Ministers and deputy ministers should each become secretaries reporting directly to the president.”

In this context, the new government will seriously consider introducing the American-style concept of a secretary to the ministerial post, the official added.

“The title of Principal Presidential Secretary itself is outdated. (The Presidential Secretariat) can be streamlined into advisers, secretaries and administrators,” another transition team official said.

“The sense of authority, power and command of the speech of senior presidential secretaries will be adjusted horizontally,” the official stressed.

Yoon is said to be firmly determined to push for a radical reform of the government organization. His transition team held the first formal meeting of the presidential office reform task force on Monday. At the meeting, which was also attended by senior officials from the finance and interior ministries, the problems of the existing presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, and alternatives were widely discussed, according to reports.

Yoon vowed to move the presidential office from Cheong Wa Dae to the Defense Ministry compound in Yongsan, central Seoul, to leave the imperial presidency. Yoon said he wants to work closely with his secretaries, advisers and the press in one building, unlike Cheong Wa Dae, where individual buildings are quite far apart.

But President Moon Jae-in has stalled Yoon’s relocation plan, citing a possible defense ministry security vacuum.

Regardless of the situation, however, Yoon’s transition team is determined to further expedite discussions on Cheong Wa Dae’s overhaul, officials said.

Meanwhile, a number of joint public-private committees to be set up in Yoon’s presidential office are expected to play a role in presenting major national programs to be implemented by each ministry, they noted.

Rebecca R. Santistevan