[EDITORIALS]Cleaning house, DJ-style

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[EDITORIALS]Cleaning house, DJ-style

A document that shows regional preferences used by the Kim Dae-jung administration has been brought to light. The document is a blacklist of people who were laid off during the 1998 restructuring of the state-run Korea Racing Association.

The blacklist shows that the wave of restructuring-related layoffs at state-run corporations were carried out based on regionalism and political preference.

According to an article carried by the Dong-a Ilbo, 100 former employees of the racing association were blacklisted because they either "hailed from a certain region," or were "anti-Kim Dae-jung," "followers of a former privileged class" or were "regionally-biased." The document shows that restructuring was carried on the basis of the region an official hails from and the party an official supported instead of efficiency. The layoff was carried out according to the document, and preference in promotions after 1998 was given to people from Jeolla. Fourteen former employees later filed a suit against the association. They have been vindicated in two trials.

The Kim Dae-jung administration claimed that performance was the criteria in determining the size and target of layoffs. This blacklist shows otherwise. When the association laid off employees under the government initiative to make it an efficient state corporation, the association head said that the laid-off personnel were involved in illegal and irregular actions involving horse racing. That claim has also been invalidated by the blacklist, whose existence lends weight to persistent criticism that the administration has pursued a policy of regional favoritism. The administration defended its personnel policies as designed to correct past job discrimination only, but these personnel changes make that defense implausible.

The association's blacklist, which is more stunning than the blacklists of journalists drawn up by former military regimes, deals yet another blow to the administration's perceived morality. Association officials should explain what happened, because the blacklist is not only about the association. It is a serious issue that must be thoroughly explored to head off a recurrence. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry should investigate the case and the Board of Audit and Inspection should do so as well.
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