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What future do penguins need to embrace

Posted September. 17, 2013 05:10,   


Rep. Yoon Jae-ok of the ruling Saenuri Party is self-claimed “legend” of police. Living up to his nickname that he accorded to himself, Yoon made success throughout his career as a police officer who hails from Korean National Police University. He was atop in his class in academic performance when he entered Class 1 of the university through a competitive ratio of 224 – 1 in 1981, and remained at the top at the time of his graduation.

As an alumnus of the police university, Yoon had a flurry of records for being the first throughout his career ranging from his promotion to superintendent and to chief superintendent general. His success ended there, however. While serving as the chief of Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency, he quit after losing competition over the post of National Police Agency commissioner, the top job in the police authority.

He published a book entitled “Where did the First Penguin go?” in late 2011, just before he ran in the general elections for the 19th General Assembly in April last year. The first penguin he refers to is a leader who chose challenge and change amid an uncertain and risky situation. It means the penguin that bravely jumps into the sea and thus leads its group amidst a herd of penguins, which are reluctant to enter the water for fear of aquatic predators including seals. Many parts of his book display his pride as graduate of the police university.

The era of first penguins who are considered frontrunners of police officers who hail from the university is coming to a close. A number of alumni of Korean National Police University’s Class 1 failed to rise to the commissioner of the National Police Agency and quit in recent months. Following Yoon’s suit, alumni of the university’s Class 1, including Seo Cheong-ho, former president of the police university, Kang Gyeong-ryang, former chief of the Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency, and Lee Kang-deok, former chief of the Korea Coast Guard, all ended their police careers in succession as they failed to rise to the post of the National Police Agency commissioner last April. These people were highly regarded their junior alumni of the university that they are eligible for the national police chief. Some lament this situation as an “insult to Korea National Police University.”

It is only a matter of time before the university generates the police chief. The university is producing 120 police officers at the rank of chief inspector every year as its alumni, who are effectively monopolizing the police organization. It is not an exaggeration for 50 candidates of senior police officers who join police yearly and about five police officers who are recruited from people who pass the state bar exam, feel a sense of crisis, fearing “We will be choked to death by police university alumni.” The deteriorating morale of police officers, who begin their careers as constable and have their fate at the mercy of police university alumni despite accounting for 95 percent the organization, has effectively become severe chronic illness.

Reform of Korea National Police University has been discussed every time a new administration took power, and the Park Geun-hye administration is no exception. According to a “plan on galvanizing the police organization” released recently to the media by the Security and Public Administration Ministry, the government will seek to reform the university in three arenas, including reduction of the annual quota of students admitted to the university, enhancing of equity between the police university and ordinary universities, and improvement of excessive special favors in appointing police university cadets as chief inspectors after their free education and graduation.

Alumni of the university, who have transformed from once dubbed “elite police” into the target of reform, feel that they are wrongfully accused and victimized. They refute the move by saying that “What on earth did we do wrong?” Even if they did not intend, however, they can legitimately be criticized as having ostracized majority in the policy organization as non-mainstream by tying themselves as alumni of the university’s difference classes and boosting cronyism. As officers who hail from the university increasingly monopolize key posts, conflict between alumni of the university and other members of the police organization who do not hail from the university will inevitably deepen proportionately.

The public wishes that police get healthier and provide better public safety. For that to happen, police officers who help out the agony and hardships of innocent victims at the frontline of police enforcement, apart from few elite police officers, should get fair share of treatment as well. It is obvious that if penguins monopolize waters in the Arctic, not only penguins but also the entire marine ecosystem will have to pay huge price.