[EDITORIALS]A Cloud of Political InfluenceThe Academy of Korean Studies, a national research institute, seems to be suffering from political pressure. The academy's political independence is being questioned because Chang Eul-byung, a supreme council member of the Millennium Democratic Party, has been selected to replace Lee Sang-joo, the former head of the academy, who recently became the chief of the presidential staff. Possible political influence surrounds the selection.
Mr. Lee was praised for boosting the academy's stagnant atmosphere with a know-how that had helped him run three universities as president. Since Mr. Chang also did a stint as the president of a university, he can refer to his move to the academy as "going back home." The problem is that there seems to be too much interaction between political circles and a nationally representative research institute on Korean studies. After this government was sworn in, signs of political influence at the academy involved the naming, as the head of the academy, the following: Han Sang-jin, Mr. Lee and now Mr. Chang.
The unsavory controversy that swirls about the political independence of the academy erupted after Mr. Han, the former head of the academy, moved to become the chairman of Presidential Commission on Policy Planning with the rank of a cabinet minister. When Mr. Lee replaced Mr. Han, as well as when Mr. Lee moved to the Blue House, many people thought Mr. Lee was selected to camouflage the current government's regional bias in its recruitment of senior ranking officials, since he is from North Kyongsang province. There is a widely-held belief that President Kim Dae-jung chose Mr. Chang for the job, and the board of directors of the academy named him as a formality.
It is a common sense that academic integrity and scholars' pride are hurt when research institutes are politically influenced. From the time of its inauguration 23 years ago, the academy was criticized for being the cradle of the ideology of Yushin dictatorship. It succeeded in securing its place as a true academic institute, overcoming many other difficulties. The government should reflect on the possibility that it gave the impression that it has influenced the Academy.