Published : 2013-10-17 19:28
Updated : 2013-10-17 19:28
One pressing task for President Park Geun-hye is to fill the top posts of the many state-run enterprises and other public organizations that have been left vacant for months.
In June, she abruptly ordered the Cabinet ministries to halt the selection of candidates to lead the public entities under their wings. She was responding to a public outcry against parachute appointments.
The public was riled up over the ministries helping their former officials land top positions at public entities. In response to public complaints, the government revamped the process for selecting and screening candidates to head public agencies.
Under the new rule, the executive recommendation committees of public organizations are supposed to allocate more than half of their seats to outside figures. This is intended to make the committees free from ministerial influence.
The new rule has also empowered recommendation committees by ensuring that CEOs are picked from among the candidates they have recommended, not from the shortlists drawn up by the Public Entity Steering Committee, which sits above them.
Now, Park appears ready to start filling the vacant posts. A senior presidential secretary said that background checks on the candidates had almost been finished.
Park is expected to make dozens of appointments. Currently, 13 public agencies, including Korea Expressway Corp. and Korea Water Resources Corp., operate without a boss. Eleven others, including the Korea Credit Guarantee Fund, have CEOs whose terms have already expired. Park is also likely to replace the heads of many organizations that earned poor marks in annual performance evaluations.
Now the question is how far Park will go to practice what she has been preaching. After being elected president, Park pledged to depart from the “evil practice” of parachuting unqualified politicians and bureaucrats in key public offices.
She has repeatedly stressed two criteria in making appointments ― professional expertise and philosophy of governance. Yet there are troubling signs that suggest she is deviating from her own principles.
One such sign is her appointment of Kim Seok-ki, former commissioner of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, to lead Korea Airports Corp., an agency that operates the nation’s 14 airports.
Kim, who is known to be loyal to Park, lacks expertise in airport management and for this reason ranked at the bottom of the shortlist submitted by the corporation’s executive recommendation committee.
The appointment was also criticized on moral grounds, as Kim was forced to resign from his post in 2009 for ordering the deadly crackdown on squatters in a redevelopment project in Yongsan, central Seoul. Five protesters and a police officer were killed in the raid.
Another example involves Lee Kyu-taek, a former lawmaker close to Park who was recently named to head the Korean Teachers’ Credit Union, which manages assets worth 21 trillion won. Lee once served as chairman of the National Assembly’s Education Committee but has no experience in asset management.
Recently, leaders of the ruling Saenuri Party openly urged Park to reward politicians who helped her win the election with top jobs at public organizations. It is regrettable that political leaders still regard public offices as nothing more than the spoils of election victory.
Park will not be able to totally ignore the demands from the ruling party. But she should stop the revolving door. The nation simply cannot afford to leave important public agencies in the hands of incompetent politicians.