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Woman in the top presidential secretary for HR

Posted May. 12, 2017 07:15,   

Updated May. 12, 2017 07:20


Lee Cheol-hui who became president of Korea Asset Management Corporation (KAMCO) in 2008 made an extraordinary attempt to tighten the discipline of the state-run organization: he selected a woman to lead human resource management. Eventually, it was a move of God. Lee said, “After I appointed a woman as a HR head, I could hear male-dominated academic or cliques and factions shattered.” The female head was Noh Jeong-ran, now a business management professor at Myongji University.

It might be men’s nature to find out a common ground with others – whether it be age, hometown, school or even military experience – but nepotism is definitely an old legacy to break with. The four major elements of nepotism in Korea is family, region, academic and career background. Men’s personal ties are often the root cause of problems in human resource management in public organizations. In contrast, women are competitive as an HR manager in that they can rarely be part of regional and academic networks.

Former President Park Geun-hye disappointed many women as she appointed only two women as ministers – Yoon Jin-sook and Cho Yoon-sun – except for gender equity and family ministers. Did she mean that one female leader is enough? It is all the more noticeable that the Moon Jae-in administration has revived the position of the top presidential secretary for human resource affairs and appointed Cho Hyun-ok, a visiting professor of Ewha Womans University, to the position. If the creation of the position is to field various talents, naming a woman for the position would mean the administration’s willingness to make an equal number of men and women in the cabinet without resorting to personal ties.

With a balanced career experience at state think-tanks and civic groups, Cho served as a secretary for balanced human resource affairs reporting to Moon Jae-in who was a presidential chief of staff under the Roh Moo-hyun administration. Jeong Chan-yong, the then senior presidential secretary for human resources under the Roh administration, was praised for unexpected selection of people, while the administration itself failed due to amateurism and appointment of people with personal ties. Hopefully, Cho can contribute to make the new administration successful with excellent human resource management by learning lessons from failures of the Roh administration and leveraging the strengths of women – fairness and details.