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Suits not required: President dispenses with hierarchy, formalities

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President Yoon Suk-yeol, front, speaks during his first senior presidential secretary meeting held in his new office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap
President Yoon Suk-yeol, front, speaks during his first senior presidential secretary meeting held in his new office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap

Presiding over his first senior presidential secretary meeting, Yoon encourages staff to communicate constantly across fields

By Kang Hyun-kyung

President Yoon Suk-yeol revealed a bit about his leadership style on Wednesday, while presiding over his first meeting with senior presidential secretaries held at his new office in Yongsan District, Seoul, on the second day of his presidency.

He was frank and didn't care much about rituals and encouraged his staff to be focused on getting things done without being distracted by other less important issues, such as dress codes or bureaucratic matters.

Rather than hierarchy or formalities, an emphasis on devotion to one's work characterizes his working style.

"Well, I feel awkward with this table. We are going to have a meeting today like this in front of cameras as camera crew members from the media outlets are shooting us in a meeting because they said they needed this," he said during his opening remarks. "Today is an exception. They won't be able to shoot the opening of this meeting again. So, feel free and bring up any topics you'd like to share with others here."

His opening remarks were said in front of the assembled media, while the rest of the meeting was held behind closed doors.

Yoon said that no suits or official attire will be needed to be worn by presidential staff to attend the meeting, noting there will be no dress code. "So feel free to wear anything you feel comfortable with, when you attend this meeting from next time," he said.

A prosecutor-turned-president, Yoon stressed professionalism and devotion to work as core values for presidential secretaries, encouraging his staff to communicate constantly with others in different fields as much as they can, working until the "soles of their shoes are worn out," a Korean saying meaning to work very diligently.

He said that he hopes his aides can be more devoted to their work, be in solidarity with each other to share and protect freedom, communicate organically without barriers and be problem solvers.

"Although we have separate presidential secretaries handling political affairs, economic affairs and foreign policy and security, this doesn't mean that their jurisdictions are clearly defined. In most of the cases, the lines are blurry. I think they should share and exchange their views with one another to find solutions to policy problems," he said.

Yoon said the nation is dealing with dual challenges on both the economic and security fronts, noting that he convened the presidential secretary meeting to discuss them and look for a breakthrough.

He voiced his worries about the economic downturn and rising inflation, mentioning the soaring price of wheat and its negative impact on peoples' food budget.

"If you stay in your office, you won't be able to get things done," he said. "Please come into my office frequently and without reserve."

Stressing that the security environment facing Korea is also daunting, he said that foreign countries are worried about possible nuclear tests by North Korea. He has had a flurry of diplomatic meetings with foreign dignitaries who attended his inauguration ceremony since Tuesday.

He then switched gears, explaining the meaning of the inaugural speech he delivered a day ago in the National Assembly.

During the speech, he highlighted freedom, free democracy and the market economy and vowed to use Korea's greater role in the international community to safeguard freedom and human rights. While delivering the speech, Yoon mentioned the word freedom 35 times, global citizen/citizen 15 times, world 13 times and democracy 8 times, among other frequently used words.

Analyzing his speech, several local daily newspapers reported that compared to his focus on those values, the domestic challenge of unity was absent from his speech as he didn't mention anything about it.

Reacting to the media coverage of his inauguration speech, Yoon said he skipped any mention of unity in his speech not because he didn't think it is important but because what he does every day is related to unity.

"Isn't the Constitution the norm for unifying the people?" he asked. "Our democratic political process itself is all about the process of making national unity every day. There is no right or left and there are no citizens who support us and citizens who don't," he said, noting he used the word, "freedom," so often yesterday because he thinks freedom is a common value for all people.

Kang Hyun-kyung

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