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[Editorial] Appointments Ruled by Personal Preference, Favors, and Connections

[Editorial] Appointments Ruled by Personal Preference, Favors, and Connections

Posted November. 02, 2004 23:16,   


There’s fierce controversy regarding the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s exercise of favoritism in personnel appointment. Last week, former assemblyman Lee Jae-jung, who had been sentenced to a fine on the charge of receiving illegal presidential campaign funds, was named senior vice president for the Advisory Council on Democratic and Peaceful Unification, and now a fellow graduate from the president’s old school Busan Commercial High, who is just three years his senior, has been appointed president of the Korea National Housing Corporation. It’s no wonder that critics are questioning whether such appointments are based on personal favors and connections. Cheong Wa Dae insists that “aptitude and capability were taken into account,” but how many would believe such a claim?

The appointment of Busan Commercial High alumni to important positions has been especially pronounced this year. Former National Defense Advisor Yoon Gwang-ung, President Roh’s upperclassman by five years, was named minister of National Defense. The presidential secretariat was increased by three members, among them the post of secretary for the Maintenance of Discipline in Public Offices, in comprehensive charge of all personnel inspections. This means that Busan Commercial High alums have taken control of the first stages of personnel management in our government, filling the key posts involving nominations for and confirmation of appointments to public offices. Besides those mentioned above, the offices of the president of the Korea Coal Corporation and supervisor of the Korea Securities Depository have also been filled by Busan Commercial High alumni.

Many claim that appointments based on “gratitude” for defeated election candidates and people who played a key role in the party’s foundation have also gone beyond what might be deemed appropriate. In addition to unofficially designating Yoon Deok-hong, the former minister of Education & Human Resources Development, as the next president of the Academy of Korean Studies, the administration has given the posts of chairman of the Presidential Commission on Small & Medium Enterprises, president of the Korea Cadastral Survey Corporation, administrator of the National Emergency Management Agency, and supervisor of the Seoul Olympic Sports Promotion Foundation to candidates who lost in the April 15 general elections.

Based on the belief that “the only people one can trust are one’s own,” favoritism in public appointments is a sign of an administration’s sense of crisis. Past administrations have displayed such tendencies toward the latter half of their term, but the present one has already demonstrated it less than two years after inauguration. Such haste bespeaks the elevated sense of crisis felt by the Roh administration. But it’s at times like this that one must truly broaden one’s mind. The more one fixates on one’s personal preferences and connections, the narrower the scope of national government will become.

The current administration has already been subject to criticism regarding its factionism and the consequent scantiness of its personnel pool. If such an administration resorts to this sort of prejudicial appointment practices, what could we possibly expect of its remaining time in office? It is imperative for the Roh government to pursue a positive cycle of wide-ranging appointments and elevation of the quality of national administration. It cannot presume to speak of reform to the Korean people while practicing favoritism and preferential treatment.