Quotas No Substitute for ReformPrime Minister Lee Han-dong announced a “ceiling for important posts by region and school” as one of 20 major governmental tasks this year. This ceiling calls for a30-40 percent limit on high-level officials above grade three from the same region or school in each ministry. We believe this is a desperate measure to resolve the controversy over favored appointments from a certain region, but this complacent and mechanical idea comes as a surprise and disappointment.
If civil servants from the same region or same school are concentrated in a ministry, they will face disadvantageous treatment in promotions and assignments regardless of their abilities. It is an outlandish idea, reminding us of Procrustes in Greek mythology, who amputated the limbs of travelers so they would fit in his bed.
In this administration, controversies have often erupted over the pace of appointments of Cholla persons, exacerbating regionalism and eroding confidence in the government. The government has insisted that it does not favor a certain region, citing ratios of officials by region. If that is true, why is the government introducing an unnatural scheme? Each ministry should handle personnel matters according to its own principles. It is more urgent to rectify the practice of reserving key posts in the so-called “powerful” government ministries for those from the same region. The controversy over favoritism in personnel placement will disappear only when there are no more unqualified people who rise meteorically thanks to their hometowns or rumors of powerful figures behind them.
We wonder whether measures announced by President Kim at his New Year’s press confer-ence and Prime Minister Lee’s announcement of tasks for the year amount to the sum of renewal measures. Just before receiving the Nobel Prize, President Kim admitted that the government is responsible for the current economic woes and pledged reform measures. Therefore, the Korean people are awaiting to hear the president’s comprehensive philosophy and to see bold plans for a bright future. They will be greatly disappointed if his plan is limited to “strong government,” “coalition with Kim Jong-pil” and a “ceiling for important posts by region.” With a cabinet reshuffle around the corner, we are again hoping for satisfactory reforms and renewal measures.
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