Meteoric Rise of a Man from MokpoThe fiasco surrounding Park Geum-seong, who was dismissed from the position of Chief of the Seoul Police just two days after his appointment, highlights certain problems with official appointments in this society. One of the problems is regional favoritism and another is the manipulation of academic records. Mr. Park''s case is particularly telling, because the two problems are intertwined; he apparently tampered with his records in a way to fuel his regional advantage.
It has been reported that Mr. Park graduated from Mokpo Maritime High School and Kwangju Teachers'' College and audited courses at Chosun University for one year. His personnel records used to show, incorrectly, that he graduated from Mokpo High School and attended Chosun University for three years before leaving midway through the course. Mokpo High School is usually better regarded than Mokpo Maritime, and attending a university for three years sounds better than just going to lectures there for a year. This kind of thing is done by many people who wish to improve their chances of promotion.
The peculiar problem with Mr. Park''s case is that he decided to revise these records toward the end of 1997, when a Mokpo-based politician, Kim Dae-jung, was elected president. Mr. Park said he only found the mistakes in his records at that time and asked for them to be revised. This is not a very convincing explanation.
More convincing is speculation that he became increasingly concerned about the danger of his false records being exposed as he rose higher. Still more convincing is further speculation that he suddenly became proud of Mokpo Maritime, one of whose graduates, Mr. Kim Ok-doo, current Secretary General of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party, happened to become a man of great influence after the election of President Kim. Neither possibility puts Mr. Park in a pleasant light, but the latter is more ugly.
After his personnel records were revised, Mr. Park rose four ranks in 32 months, from a senior superintendent to a senior chief superintendent general. Other officers say they would be happy to advance four levels in six years. It would be strange if there were no talk of Mr. Park''s having the backing of somebody influential. His tampered personnel records fuels such talk.
We hope Korean society learns a lesson this incident about the problems of academic and regional favoritism. To make the lesson easier to learn, we suggest that the course of Mr. Park''s meteoric rise be investigated.