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The president's right-hand man

In his own low-key manner, Yu Shyi-kun has become a quiet achiever on behalf of the government

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Secretary-general to the President, Yu Shyi-kun.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Given just 90 days for preparatory work, the secretary-general to the president, Yu Shyi-kun, managed to get leaders of political parties, business circles and scholars together for the Economic Development Advisory Conference, convened on July 21, the accomplishment of yet another difficult task handed down by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Amid political wrangling and a lack of mutual trust between ruling and opposition parties, Yu has become Chen's most important "peacemaker."

As a presidential aide said, the conference and the summit between Chen and leaders of the three opposition parties last October were originally rejected by the opposition and were the subject of negativity from media and political circles.

But because of Yu's coordination, these difficult missions eventually came to fruition.

"These political tasks are really tough and thankless. Not only because `success is the only acceptable result' but also because the implementer must shuttle between the opposition alliance, keeping a low-profile, and put up with criticism while conveying faithfully President Chen's ideas," said former DPP convener in the National Assembly Chen Chin-teh (陳金德).

"At the moment it is very difficult to find an appropriate person from the presidential office or within the DPP who is capable of carrying out these tasks," Chen said.

Chen, who serves as director of the Civil Affairs Bureau of the Ilan County government, was once a secretary-assistant to Yu when Yu was Ilan County Commissioner.

In Chen Chin-teh's eyes, although the media often complains that Yu "lacks creativity," "speaks boringly," and has no political charisma, these criticisms are to Yu's advantage when he communicates with his political opponents.

Yu is unlike other members of the DPP elite, who tend to be aggressive and provocative. He is more acceptable to his counterparts, and his quiet and steady personality is his main asset as it disarms his opponents and enables him to convince them of his proposals.

According to an aide of Yu's, his down-to-earth character is a result of his impoverished and difficult childhood. He never talks emptily like other politicians, and always maintains a low-key stance He has both perseverance and endurance, "just like a Taiwan buffalo," Chen said, "so the way he has achieved what he has often takes his fellow party members and political opponents by surprise."

"People always ask, `Why Yu Shyi-kun? He does not stand out in the crowd at all.' But it turns out he is one who can complete difficult political assignments," said Yu's assistant, Liu Chien-hsin (劉建忻).

"Yu comes from a typical, poor Taiwan farming family, and he had a hard time when he was young. When he was in the second year of junior high school, he had to drop out of school to help his father in the fields for five years because they had no money. He did not get his bachelor's degree [at Tunghai University in 1985] until he was in his 30s and elected a provincial assembly deputy," said Liu.

"At that time, his classmates in the department of political science did not even know that there was a provincial assembly deputy in their class. Someone even said to Yu `Your name is the same as that of a provincial deputy," Liu said.

Yu, 53, was born in Ilan County, which has been dubbed a "democratic sacred ground" because the county commissioner's post has been occupied by non-KMT politicians for 23 consecutive years.

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