[INSIGHT]Try a little 'tough love,' perhaps?

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[INSIGHT]Try a little 'tough love,' perhaps?

The tedious wrangle between the governing and opposition parties surrounding the resignation of National Intelligence Service Director General Shin Kuhn and Prosecutor General Shin Seung-nam continues. Maybe former President Kim Young-sam would have dismissed them from their posts at the outbreak of scandal, if he were in charge. Lim Dong-won, a special assistant to the president, would have been dismissed also. When a document about a poll to suspend local elections by the Agency for National Security Planning, the predecessor of the NIS, was exposed in 1995, the former president dismissed Kim Deok, the head of the agency at the time the poll was taken, from his new job as the deputy prime minister for unification. That was a bold move, considering that Mr. Kim had been appointed to that post only two months earlier.

President Kim Dae-jung's approach to personnel affairs is different from that of his predecessor. He tolerates a situation in which the younger brother of the prosecutor general was found to be involved in the multifaceted scandal of corporate raider Lee Yong-ho and several senior prosecutors resigned because of involvement in it. He also endures a situation in which a ranking NIS official received bribes and visited the president's son to introduce members of organized crime gangs.

Many people were puzzled at the refusal of the NIS head and prosecutor general to resign and their insistence that they have done nothing wrong. It is not reasonable that they show such stubbornness. Do they have somebody to rely on? Immediately after the flap, a senior Blue House official said there was no reason to replace the two.

It is difficult to say whose method is the better - Kim Young-sam's "off with their heads" approach or Kim Dae-jung's trust in people he has appointed. The basic principle of managing personnel is to correct ills and reprimand officials for mistakes. President Kim is not strict with that management principle. He is not known to scold his subordinates often. For instance, the NIS is directly under the president, who should feel responsible for scandals and lax discipline in that agency. The president should have reprimanded the NIS director over the recent incidents.

Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade humiliated the nation and the president by saying that they were not notified of the execution of a Korean by the Chinese government, although it was confirmed that the Chinese did notify the ministry beforehand. Neither did the ministry handle fishing rights issues adequately. Many people would feel easier if the president railed against those accountable. The same applies to the misallocation of public funds and bad education policies, but the president apparently has taken no one to the woodshed.

In every proposed personnel change, the governing party questions if there are suitable persons for the post. That is regrettable. If the governing party did not discriminate among people as allies and enemies they would not ask such questions. For instance, there is a competent person like Shim Je-ryoon serving in the prosecutors office. Chough Soon-hyung, a Millennium Democratic Party legislator who is popular with the public for calling right right and wrong wrong, was never assigned a high position. Unification Minister Hong Soon-young is praised by the opposition party for his uprightness towards the North's unreasonable demands, a rare thing. The governing party should appoint trustworthy and upright people from the start.

There are many issues for which the government should apologize to the people. The credibility of government bodies such as the prosecutors office and the NIS has hit bottom. But no one is apologizing for the situation, nor asking who is responsible for it. As the end of the year approaches, the government says it will strengthen discipline in public offices but the people are skeptical. The government ran a large newspaper advertisement saying it would do its best to recover public funds to minimize the financial burden on the people after the Board of Audit and Inspection reported that around 7 trillion won ($5.5 billion) out of 160 trillion won in bailout funds was embezzled. But many people say they were annoyed by the advertisement. Even members of the governing party say that defending the head of the NIS and the prosecutor general is causing them trouble.

Expectations that things would improve after President Kim resigned as chief of the ruling party seem to have dwindled. The main cause is President Kim's mismanagement of personnel. The government remains unchanged; there have been no reshuffles even though there are many reasons for them. It is deplorable.


The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Song Chin-hyok

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