National Police Agency Commissioner Cho Hyun-oh says he wanted to become a soldier as a child. As his vision worsened in high school, he gave up his dream of going to the Korea Military Academy. He instead wanted to enter the police academy but was disqualified because he did not finish military service. So he went to college. In 1981, he passed the foreign service exam and served as a diplomat for 8 1/2 years before becoming a police officer in 1990. Cho said in his inauguration ceremony, I came a long way to stand before you, probably talking about his life.
He became head of the national police four years after getting promoted to senior superintendent general in December 2006. He rose through the ranks largely through the performance-based principle introduced to revitalize police through competition while serving as Busan police chief in 2008. Cho, however, stressed discipline and performance so much, he was given the nicknames Grim Reaper and jellyfish. The backlash from his subordinates stemming from the leak of a video clip in which Cho talks about the late former President Roh Moo-hyuns borrowed-name accounts and a former Seoul district police chiefs demand that he and Cho jointly resign come from internal conflict at the police agency. It can also be seen, however, as a side effect of the performance-based principle.
Cho asked all police officers nationwide Sunday to maintain confidentiality in his first letter from the command titled Time to Think About the Importance of Harmony. He said, We should refrain from making people worry by unveiling internal conflict and controversy through media to the outside and pull our hearts and minds together for the development of our organization. This might seem like a measure to tackle internal conflict unveiled around the time of his appointment, but he should not have blamed the media for internal problems.
One fifth of all police chiefs appointed after the two-year term was introduced in 2004 have finished their terms. This shows the extent of external and internal influence over police. In 2008, the Roh administration forced then National Police Agency Commissioner Huh Jun-young to resign when a farmer was killed while police suppressed protestors wielding bamboo spears and iron pipes. Last year, police chief nominee Kim Seok-ki dropped out of the running over the deadly Yongsan fire that killed six people, including one police officer. The powers that be should not use the police chief position as a political tool and police should not mind the government. Making police officers remain silent as soon as their chief gets inaugurated hopefully will not mean being too aware of the government or public opinion.