[VIEWPOINT]‘Coincidences’ that are anything but

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[VIEWPOINT]‘Coincidences’ that are anything but

The Roh Moo-hyun administration announced two criteria for hiring. It openly advocated the need for so-called “personnel selection by code” (or shared philosophy), when it selects government ministers.
In fact, no one can argue against the president when he says he will work with those who share his philosophies.
As the Blue House public information secretary, Lee Baek-man, said, Sonata or Mercedes-Benz parts cannot be used to repair an Equus.
On the other hand, the government explains that it hires “by ability” for jobs in the national banks and public corporations.
Presidential personnel secretary Kim Wan-key wrote last November on the Blue House Web site that the nomination of disproportionately more people from Busan city and Gyungnam province was a series of unintentional coincidences.
This explained the consecutive appointments of people from Busan and South Gyeongsang as the presidents of Korea National Oil Corporation, Korea Gas Corporation and the Korea Industrial Bank.
Mr. Kim said, “There were some opinions that considering the regional balance, people from other regions should be appointed, but we reached the conclusion that it was not the right way.” He argued that the government’s ability-based selections coincidentally led to regionally unbalanced appointments.
Let’s take a look at the subsequent hirings in the financial sector.
The Financial Supervisory Service said it would reappoint Kim Jung-hoe, the deputy governor in charge of banks and non-banks, after his term expires April 17.
The reappointment of an executive officer at the Financial Supervisory Service is unprecedented, as is his term of reappointment, which is only eight months rather than the regular term of three years.
The Financial Supervisory Service explained that the deputy governor Kim was reappointed because he needed to finish working on the sale of the Korea Exchange Bank.
But there are rumors, his reappointment is related to the appointment of his successor. Both Kang Sang-baek and Kim Dae-pyoung, assistant governors, are strong candidates so far. Kang is senior to Kim. Yet Kim attended Busan Commercial High School from which President Roh graduated as well.
Kim’s promotion to deputy governor surpassing Kang will surely stir up controversy about appointing another alumnus of Busan Commercial High School. On top of that, Kim was promoted to his current job just about a year ago. It is too soon to promote him again.
The idea to extend deputy governor Kim’s term is interpreted by observers as an intention to get rid of Kang. If deputy governor Kim is reappointed, assistant governor Kang will have no other choice than to retire when his term ends on April 17. At the end of this year, assistant governor Kim will become the single candidate naturally.
In another case, Kim Jang-soo, the former auditor at Korea Ratings, was appointed as vice chairman of the Korea Federation of Banks on March 2. Mr. Kim graduated from Busan Commercial High School. He is a classmate of Lee Seong-tae, the new governor of the Bank of Korea, and two years senior to President Roh. Kim Gong-jin, former deputy governor of the Bank of Korea, was reappointed in March last year, but suddenly resigned with two years left in his term.
The fact that Yoo Ji-chang, the chairman of the Korea Federation of Banks, who took office last November, is younger than the former vice chairman Kim is said to have influenced Kim’s resignation. But the newly appointed vice chairman Kim of the federation is five years older than chairman Yoo and even one year senior in terms of passing the national examination for civil service.
The present situation seems more awkward than the one in which the former vice chairman Kim remains in the same position.
The government may contend that the personnel affairs were decided by the banks or the owners of the federation. But almost everyone knows that the decision was not made as the banks had intended.
In a third case, Lee Sung-il, the president of Seoul Money Brokerage Services Ltd., and Shim Hoon, former president of the Busan Bank, were unofficially nominated respectively as the deputy governor of the Bank of Korea and a Monetary Board member at the Bank of Korea last week. Both figures have long worked at the Bank of Korea. In particular, Mr. Shim has worked as head of the Research Department and the Reserve Management Department, as the deputy governor at the Bank of Korea and as the president of the Busan Bank for six years.
Despite these splendid careers, many view the nomination of Mr. Shim as unexpected because he is four years senior to governor Lee Seong-tae and entered the Bank of Korea two years earlier than the governor. That is why the fact that Mr. Shim graduated from Busan High School draws our attention.
The “series of coincidences” that the presidential personnel secretary, Kim Wan-key, mentioned last November seems to be continuing this year too.
This is to say that when the government finds a capable person, he ends up coming from Busan and South Gyeongsang, of all regions. In this trend, a series of coincidences is likely to go on. Probably, the most important factor for the “ability” Mr. Kim talked about seems to be “regional ties.”
If so, the Roh administration’s personnel criteria turn out to be just one criterion. His personnel selections are all based on the “code,” which seems to have two implications. One is “to follow the president’s way of thinking unconditionally.” The other is “to have come from a good region.”

* The writer is the business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Se-jung
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