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[Column] Cronyism creates comedy in government

Posted November. 16, 2000 14:15,   


The president of the Korea National Tourism Organization, Cho Hong-Kyu, who placed last in the management assessment conducted by the government last year of among all organizations supported by the government, has been placed on the chopping block following his announcement of his intention to produce a movie for export.

Many criticize him for indulging in some off-the-wall fancies, rather than fulfilling his responsibility to promote tourism to Korea. With a four-term career as a National Assemblyman and assigned to the KNTO in June, he is no stranger to riotous slips of the tongue, with his self-assessment, "I am a walking 'nak-ha-san' (¡®parachute¡¯ -- which also means a government official placed in some cozy position after retiring from office)."

In fact, he is not an exception when it comes to the off-the-wall pursuits of the presidents of various government-supported public enterprises who are generally of the nak-ha-san circle. It is not to say that all such presidents with careers as government officials are inept at their jobs.

However, it would be unreasonable to think that a person, no matter how able he had been in his previous position, could take the helm of a company to which he is a newcomer and run it as if he was an expert in the field.

The government has revealed that it would set an example at the end of this year and embarked on a search-and-destroy mission, meaning permanent firings, of the presidents of public enterprises found to have been less than adequate.

For some time, although the government has proclaimed great success in the reform drive of the public enterprises, the Korean people have not truly seen or felt any such improvements. As such, the government explained that the blood-letting would be unavoidable, as it would be necessary to show the Korean people that the government meant business.

It goes without saying that the incompetent presidents of such enterprises ought to be fired. However, the sight of the government as it seeks out the incompetent presidents whom it has placed on posts itself looks more like a comedy skit. It is a bit hilarious to see the government place at the post a person completely lacking in expertise to run a mega-enterprise with taxpayers' money. It is the more hilarious to see the government hot in pursuit of the same persons for blood-letting for not being able to be an expert manager of the enterprise.

It is reminds one of Moe hitting awake Larry and saying, "Wake up and go to sleep!"

As long as the government continues its habit of placing its cronies at the top posts at the public enterprises and creating such parasitism, the Korean people will never see the end of such a comedy.

Lee Hoon dreamland@donga.com