[OUTLOOK]MBC president has tasks ahead

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[OUTLOOK]MBC president has tasks ahead

The appointment of Choi Moon-soon as the president of Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. was a shock. The course of his selection is not very important. The former head of the labor union in his 40s may have outrun his seniors with good reason. The problem is what will happen from now on.
The public’s concern is concentrated on how this unconventional figure will solve accumulated difficulties. The problem does not seem to be that of media circles alone.
Business circles also have their eyes glued to his progress. All are curious about the managerial skills of the chief executive officer who rose to the position of president from that of general manager overnight.
Coincidently, not only Choi Moon-soon, the president of MBC, but also Chung Tae-ki, the president of Hankyoreh, a daily newspaper, and Jung Yun-joo, the president of the Korean Broadcasting System, became figures of interest in a similar context.
The president of KBS, Jung Yun-joo, who took the position along with the inauguration of the present administration, has become an object of criticism for presiding over the largest deficit ever last year.
A founding member of the Hankyoreh, Chung Tae-ki left the newspaper a long time ago and returned with a mission to lead the restructuring of the company.
The three media outlets have something in common. First of all, they are businesses without owners. Second, they have powerful labor unions and their powerful unions have exercised a great influence on management and production.
Third, with the Roh Moo-hyun administration in office, these tendencies have become even deeper. Fourth, their managerial performance has worsened greatly recently. Fifth, these media outlets are the most passive in what ordinary businesses call restructuring. Sixth, despite the fact they could be considered media, they are relatively pro-government.
Now that the world has changed, the vicissitudes of media leadership can be thought of as a matter of course. Now that a progressive government is in power, the appointment of figures sharing the code of the government to important posts is nothing to be jealous of either.
Isn’t it in the same context that former labor activists who had undergone difficulties until then take all the influential positions now that the candidate they had supported has become the president?
Because a generational shift is taking place actively at this point, these changes could be desirable in some aspects.
But their performance alone will prove everything: the records of what ability they displayed not only as the heads of the media outlets but also as the chief executive officers of businesses will provide the basis for judgment of the success or failure of personnel affairs.
In that regard, KBS president Chung Yun-joo’s performance as the chief executive officer for two years is a failure. Although the management and the labor union are passing the buck of the deficit to each other, all responsibility lies with the chief executive officer. If a private company’s president had posted such a deficit, he could not have taken his responsibility even if he had been fired 10 times. Its shareholders would have protested long before.
The president of Hankyoreh, Mr. Chung, came back to the newspaper when it was in the worst situation. He was a member of the Chosun Ilbo’s committee for the protection of the free press, but has a lot of business experience as well.
From the outset of the Hankyoreh, he tried to set a business model for the newspaper but left the news outlet frustrated.
With repeated deficits, the Hankyoreh seems to have had no choice but to bring Mr. Chung back. The new chief executive officer abolished the direct voting system of the editor-in-chief as the first measure.
For the Hankyoreh, it was an unconventional change and something that hurt its pride. This means that the Hankyoreh has finally realized that its pursuit of ideology, however lofty, is futile if it cannot escape from an ongoing deficit.
The most eye-catching move is the appointment of Mr. Choi as the president of MBC. He will draw attention in many ways. In addition to being a totally unexpected character, he made himself look outstanding because he declared that he, a former head of the labor union, was ready to fight against the labor union. His first move seems extraordinary, ignoring seniority and appointing outside figures.
These are all hated by the labor union. Furthermore, he said he would reduce wages by 10 percent, abolish single salary steps and overhaul the organization.
Despite the fact that the labor union would be the first target of reform in an organization where the union prevails, he boldly declared from the beginning that he would fight it out to reform the organization.
Whether Mr. Choi is a leftist or rightist ideologically is not important. What matters is his thought and practice now that he is the president of MBC. If Mr. Choi deals smoothly with resistance from the labor union and carries out his reform plan, he will be respected as the best chief executive officer in Korea. He will be recorded as having not only saved MBC but also opened a way to vitalize the labor movement.

* The writer is the CEO of the JoongAng Ilbo News Magazine. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Chang-kyu
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