The interactive and spontaneous manner of President Moon Jae-in’s New Year’s press conference on Wednesday differentiated him from most of his predecessors.
Following Moon’s 20-minute address on key policy goals, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae opened the floor to the press for an hourlong Q&A session.
“Questioners are to be picked by the president’s hand gestures and eye contact,” said Yoon Young-chan, the chief presidential secretary for public affairs, underlining that there was no pre-arranged questionnaire.
“There may be some confusion for this is the first time, but I have faith in your conscience (that you all shall abide by the rules),” Yoon added in a playful tone, which raised laughter from over 200 local and foreign journalists at the scene.
The new rule was a drastic change from the past, even for Moon’s progressive predecessor, the late President Roh Moo-hyun, under whom questioners for news conferences were customarily prediscussed and selected among local press corps.
This time, seats for the press were also arranged in a fan shape, with Moon seated at eye level with participants. In past presidential press conferences, chairs were mostly arranged in rows with the president’s podium in front looking down at the audience.
Despite slight hiccups -- such as some “defiant” reporters asking North Korea-related questions during the slot for business issues -- the event was carried out with an amicable atmosphere, with frequent rounds of laughter among attendees -- rare for Blue House events.
Some reporters drew attention to themselves, such as one who waved a stuffed doll of the PyeongChang 2018 mascot to grab the president’s attention for the chance of a question.
“It was a refreshing approach (for a Korean president) and was quite interesting as a person who participated in it,” said one of the reporters who attended the conference, adding that there were also some complaints that the president mostly “handpicked” questions from foreign journalists.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org