[EDITORIALS]Open process - but stable?

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[EDITORIALS]Open process - but stable?

President-elect Roh Moo-hyun's transition committee heralds the adoption of a personnel policy never tried in previous administrations.

A new "People's Participation Center," one of seven subcommittees under the transition team, will recommend members for Mr. Roh's cabinet. "Even people I know will be asked to submit an application to the center," Mr. Roh emphasized. Only those examined by the center will be eligible for screening as potential cabinet members. Then the applicant's value system and ethical standards will be tested, followed by the consideration of regional parity among cabinet members. This unprecedented policy reflects Mr. Roh's desire that President Kim Dae-jung's failed personnel policy, characterized by cronyism and favoritism, should not be repeated.

The system will allow popular participation in the process and sharing of information on appointments. Through online postings, anybody can recommend cabinet members and everybody can see who have been recommended. Thus wrong practices under previous governments, such as influence peddling by political heavyweights, secret recommendations and "parachute" appointments, will be excluded. The open-door policy, elimination of favoritism and adoption of a complete personnel system will aim at placing the right persons in the right jobs. This representation of Mr. Roh's participation politics will bring fresh reaction from people.

What is in question is whether the experiment will bring effectiveness and competitiveness to the government. An open policy can guarantee moral standards but not capability and capacity. It can also bring about the intervention of special-interest groups which will mobilize online users, but in many cases public servants should pursue the public interest and risk blame from interest groups. We must be careful not to make populism prevail among civil servants. In order to strengthen driving forces within the cabinet, we need somebody playing a villain's part.

"When personnel policy is good, all goes well," is an unalterable truth. But experimental personnel policy will bring uncertainly to government work. We must give weight to stability as well as to novelty.
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