The ruling Democratic Party of Korea is pushing for the legislation of “Automatic Personnel Changes of Public Corporations,” which is designed to terminate the term of 129 public agency heads along with the expired term of the president. Rep. Kim Jeong-woo and 17 other members of the ruling party have submitted a revised law on “Operation of Public Institutes” with a view to implementing such a regulation. The revision includes a measure that will allow the president to appoint the head of 67 public agencies without having to convene a recommendation committee engaging experts from outside, simply at the request of the ministers concerned.
The current law guarantees 3-year term in office for the head of a public agency, but former administrations have reshuffled the personnel at the start of each term, practically granting spoils for their political allies and subsequently causing friction between the government trying to replace personnel and the heads of public agencies determined to finish their term. It appears that the ruling party’s proposal is intended to remove the motive of friction in the first place.
Most public corporations such as KEPCO, KORAIL, the Korea Expressway Corporation, or LH, however, are providers of services that are essential to everyday lives, and in often cases, governing expertise or political independence is more frequently required of than sharing the philosophy of governance. The revolving door personnel policy could impede the stability and continuity of management.
To make matters worse, former administrations used to often hamper the management of public corporations by appointing those who lack the necessary expertise and qualifications to run an organization. The ruling party and the Moon Jae-in administration once denounced the practice of personnel appointment as “deep-rooted evil,” but after taking office, their personnel choice for major public agencies has been heavily favored towards those who worked for President Moon during his presidential campaign or those who share similar political philosophies with him and lawmakers from the Democratic Party.
The revolving door personnel often botched the management by working in cahoots with trade unions to entrench their privilege or resorting to political intervention rather than making contributions to boosting the productivity of the corporation. It is high time to bring transparency and fairness to the process of selecting high-ranking officials including the head of corporations and standing auditors to prevent under-qualified personnel being appointed. It is vital to guarantee political independence and expertise for the advancement of public corporations, which play a pivotal role in both our economy and society.