[INSIGHT]Caution on evaluating candidates

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[INSIGHT]Caution on evaluating candidates

It is difficult for one person to evaluate another since it is not always accurate, and in complicated human relations, it is very hard to draw an objective evaluation. Nevertheless, we keep evaluating others. And when we evaluate officials, we adopt very unreasonable criteria. The criteria often have no clear standard. Thus, the evaluation is often done by extreme public opinion, which is similar to a people's court.

The standard used in the evaluation of public officials in our society has somehow become based on such issues as the nationality of family members, the military service of their children or themselves and their history of real estate transactions. Nationality, military service and evidence of any real estate speculation should be applied to officials whether they are candidates for president, prime minister or minister. Apart from their abilities in handling official duties, these criteria are applied to the evaluation, and once people pass the test, the evaluation ends, no matter how they perform their duties.

Among previous cases, the most conspicuous is that of the exemption from military service of Lee Hoi-chang's son during the last presidential election. The evaluation of Mr. Lee seemed to end with the fact that he kept his son out of the army. People did not want to know whether his son was exempted from military service legally or not. If people had arrived at their decision that he was not qualified after a thorough evaluation of his capabilities, he would not be running for president this year. However, Mr. Lee is again running for the presidency, and he is on top in the opinion polls. This shows that the evaluation that he was not fit for the presidency at that time was far from being reasonable. The evaluation was not rational nor objective and had nothing to do with legalities.

We also have two ministers who stepped down due to nationality scandals. The former minister of education, Song Ja, possessed U.S. citizenship, as did his wife and daughter. The former minister of justice, Park Hee-tae, had to step down because his daughter was admitted to a domestic university based on her U.S. citizenship. They committed no unlawful act in achieving foreign citizenship, but the two ministers had to leave their offices since they could not withstand public demands for their resignation. In the case of Mr. Song, there was another charge raised by the public. While working as an outside director of a company, he bought stock by borrowing money from the company and earned 1.6 billion won ($1.3 million).

However, during the 1997-98 financial crisis, most executives were forced to buy their firm's stock, and Mr. Song's stock later rose greatly in price.

The present prime minister designate, Chang Sang, does not meet any of the three criteria. Her son gained U.S. citizenship when he was 4 years old, and he did not complete military service. Also, there are suspicions about a speculative real estate deal she allegedly was involved in. Ten years ago, she bought land for 30 million won.

It seems she will be condemned by the harsh people's court since she does not fulfill all three criteria. How long will we carry out this people's court, which regards many officials as disgraceful offenders?

On July 29, a hearing will decide if the newly designated prime minister will be approved. To make the hearing a formal parliamentary hearing on appointments, not a people's court, there should be reasonable criteria of evaluation. To make this happen, the criteria for the prime minister should be based on global standards. We have to abandon the criteria of concern about her son's U.S. citizenship, which was gained 25 years ago, when he was 4, which could fit only in the age of Daewongun, the father of Gojong, the final king of the Joseon Dynasty, who managed political affairs as regent.

This hearing should maintain a principle strong enough to endure the blame and emotions of a people's court. For example, if the price of someone's land jump 1 billion won or 2 billion won, the landowner faces harsh criticism. On the other hand, if the land price remains unchanged due to a shooting range located alongside the land, no one says anything about it. We should pay attention to whether there was any illegal deal when she bought the land or how she got the money buying it. The evaluation that confuses investors with speculators should be abolished.

In sum, I would like to ask the people who appear at the hearing to keep their pride. If they achieved foreign nationality lawfully or were exempted from the military fairly, there is nothing to fear. Should any person be refused a chance to be president or prime minister at the sacrifice of his sons or his party?


The writer is the editorial page editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kwon Young-bin

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