[FORUM]A recruiting process gone awry

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[FORUM]A recruiting process gone awry

Whenever there is a vacancy for a high government position, or for a job at the head of a state-run public corporation, many people express interest. Sometimes they eventually decline the position, depending on what it is, but most of the time they gladly take it. There are solicitors whose job is to attract candidates for government positions.
When the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs launched a public recruitment process for the job of head of human resources, one of the applicants was a meat shop owner. His proposals for a civil service personnel policy and an administrative agenda were no more sophisticated than what a high school student might have written.
This incident did not become a public issue, because the ministry was embarrassed about having accepted such a substandard application. But it was not the only such episode.
When the Ministry of Justice took applications for correctional training chief, a security guard was among those who applied.
It is unfair to judge candidates for a government position based on their current job. But these two applicants were far from being qualified for the positions they were applying for.
Despite these episodes, President Roh Moo-hyun’s “participatory administration” seems to regard its public recruiting system for civil servants as a success. The participatory philosophy was adopted to eliminate the barriers between government agencies.
But the system of publicly recruiting the heads of state-run corporations, which comes from the same philosophy, is going through considerable troubles.
Applicants who, objectively speaking, are unqualified for the jobs are going around submitting letters of self-recommendation to corporations in which the government has a stake. The corporations often fail to find a suitable candidate, and keep the position vacant for months.
This process often proceeds to a second or third round; the Incheon International Airport Corporation has already had a fourth round. This shortage of competent candidates has been anticipated since the end of last year.
We can find the cause in the principle of transparency, which the participatory administration has been advocating.
According to the law governing the management of subsidiary agencies, the government is required to appoint the head of a public corporation through a process of open and transparent competition.
But the committees in charge of filling these positions, which consist mostly of ordinary citizens, are half-hearted about fulfilling their duties. They spend more time reviewing how a candidate accumulated his wealth and deciding whether he is “morally acceptable” than evaluating his competency.
In addressing the moral issue, these committees believe they are respecting the principle of transparency. They do not have the right to investigate candidates, so they cannot make their decisions immediately.
An effective policy needs to be established for discovering and utilizing capable, talented people who are ethically respectable. If the nomination committees continue to evade their responsibilities and limit themselves to the opinions of civil groups, the results will be absurd. It is rather strange that the citizens do not condemn their procrastination. But the government is due its share of criticism, for neglecting its responsibility to ensure that the committees are effective.
The government can participate in the appointment of public corporation executives in many ways. The president and the prime minister can make appointments, and ministers can recommend candidates. The government has access to background information of the candidates, and has the right to investigate them, so it might be good for the government to get involved in the appointments and take responsibility for the decisions.
The Blue House’s influence on most of the appointments of public corporation heads is a fait accompli at any rate, so the president may as well exercise his personnel management rights, for the sake of efficiency and transparency. His selections can still be challenged by the public, and by the National Assembly. The work of the public corporations is, after all, an extension of the work of the government.

* The writer is the editor-in-chief of the monthly magazine Next. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Choi Chul-joo
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