[FORUM]Confidence of the boss is crucial

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[FORUM]Confidence of the boss is crucial

Kim Byung-hun, a baseball player, and Jin Nyum, the deputy prime minister, have something in common. In November, both of them lost face before their bosses, and they were concerned about whether their bosses would give them another chance.

As a relief pitcher, Mr. Kim failed to protect his team's leads in two consecutive games of the World Series. He hung his head in shame after his appearance in the sixth game of the Series.

When Mr. Jin took the post of economic deputy prime minister, the economic growth rate was about 9 percent. But the rate plunged to 1 percent last year. Mr. Jin lost face before the president because he had asserted early last year that the economy would recover in the second half of the year.

Mr. Kim did not pitch in the seventh game of the World Series. The Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly chose Randy Johnson, a seasoned starting pitcher, to come into the game in relief.

On the other hand, President Kim Dae-jung has not yet decided whether to replace Mr. Jin. Several things make the decision difficult for the president. First, Mr. Jin is not wholly responsible for the deterioration of the economy. Political intervention and foot-dragging, the recession in the industrialized countries and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington have depressed the Korean economy. Now there are emerging signs of a recovery.

A reference to the cases of former presidents presents mixed precedents. Former President Kim Young-sam replaced his economic deputy prime minister, with a year to go in his term, as part of his efforts to solve economic problems, but the Korean economy fell into a financial crisis.

Former President Roh Tae-woo let then-Deputy Prime Minister Choi Gak-kyu keep his job despite expectations that he would be dismissed. The economy continued to sag at that time. In the third quarter of 1992, just before the presidential election, economic growth posted 3.1 percent, its lowest in 11 years. Since then, Mr. Roh has been regarded as a president of failed economic policies.

President Kim must make a decision sooner or later. At such a crucial moment, it is not desirable to spread rumors, such as the deputy prime minister is ready to be dismissed or that he is preparing to leave office.

President Kim doesn't have to be mindful of ambitious economic goals when he decides on the reshuffle of economic ministers. If analysts' forecasts that the economy will improve this year are correct, Mr. Kim will be highly regarded for his economic policies - at least more highly regarded than the two former presidents.

Accordingly, Mr. Kim should choose a deputy prime minister who can help him finish his term well. A person who starts many new projects without recognizing that he will be an interim minister will just confuse things in the economy. At this time, we need a deputy prime minister who is ethical as well as experienced and able. Many scandals have recently spread across the front pages of newspapers, but foreign investors have not reacted to the scandals sensitively so far. But if a high-ranking economic policy- maker's ethics are questionable and people begin to doubt his ability to manage the economy, foreign investors will flee from Korea.

Whether Mr. Jin retains the post of deputy prime minister or is replaced by a new person, the president should show confidence in him and frequently show he trusts the economic deputy prime minister.

At the end of an administration, selfishness in the bureaucracy will peak and conflicts between ministries will become strong. Economic policies will not be carried out well.

Even the president's power will weaken day by day, not to mention the power of the deputy prime minister. The president will have to add his authority to that of the minister to push through his policies.

The president needs to contemplate the attitude of the Diamondbacks' manager, Bob Brenly, who expressed his confidence in Kim Byung-hun even after his stumbles, and a former Korean president who did not trust his economic ministers but depended on other information sources.


The writer is director of the JoongAng Ilbo Economic Research Institute.

by Ro Sung-tae

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