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Replace the staff of the pres. office for civil affairs

Posted March. 26, 2013 08:30,   


Han Man-soo, who dropped out of the running for chairman of the Fair Trade Commission Sunday, marked the sixth failed appointment of the Park Geun-hye administration, following Kim Yong-joon (prime minister), Kim Jeong-hoon (future creation and science minister), Hwang Chul-joo (Small and Medium Business Administration chief), Kim Hak-ui (vice justice minister) and Kim Byung-kwan (defense minister-nominee). How disastrous for the new government. A series of failures in Cabinet appointments a month after inauguration has given the impression that the Park administration is unstable or incapable of running the country.

The greatest responsibility for the personnel fiasco falls on President Park, followed by the presidential office for civil affairs. Though the latter is said to have been significantly downsized in its functions, it is still the control tower for verifying the qualifications of high-ranking government personnel or delivering public opinions to the president. Before the launch of the Park government, The Dong-A Ilbo issued a feature titled “Everything depends on personnel.” The feature said the chief of the presidential civil affairs office should have the courage to tell the truth to the president even at risk to his or her job. Senior Secretary for Civil Affairs Kwak Sang-do is under fire over turning a blind eye to a police report on the sex scandal of former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-ui, not to mention reporting the allegation to the president.

The presidential office said, “(Han’s qualifications) were of course verified. But tracing his overseas banking accounts was not thoroughly done due to lack of time.” Had the presidential office been aware of the illegal accounts abroad but tried to cover it up due to time constraints, this would constitute serious dereliction of duty. The people also feel uneasy about former corporate lawyers appointed as ministerial-level officials. If this public sentiment is not delivered to the president, the presidential secretary office for civil affairs should assume responsibility.

Secretaries at the civil affairs, including Kwak, might feel that such criticism is undeserved, instead blaming the top-down appointment method used by President Park, who is known for making personnel decisions based on her “notebook.” She should allow her staff to speak freely and looking into her eyes. Though the Presidential Personnel Committee has been set up, it seems almost impossible for anyone to say no to the president based on the flaws found in the verification process.

President Park has frequently emphasized promise and trust, but has disappointed the people by reneging on her promise to appoint talented figures with good character regardless of political affiliation. Her predecessor Lee Myung-bak apologized in his first speech as president on May 22, 2008, saying, “I feel responsible for all the problems since the inauguration.” President Park should also assume responsibility for all of the troubles and apologize to the nation if necessary. The presidential office should fire staff at the civil affairs office responsible for the personnel failures, including their chief Kwak, to minimize the spillover and soothe negative public sentiment. Having spared no effort to speak to the people on relatively minor topic of government reorganization, the president should be able to do anything more strenuous to relieve the worrisome people.