[Outlook]Strive for fairness and transparency

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[Outlook]Strive for fairness and transparency

While only about one year is left in the president’s term, controversy keeps erupting over the employment of chief executive officers of public companies. On the outside, public companies choose heads through competition among outside candidates.
In fact, high government officials simply move from their positions to become leaders of public companies. This practice cannot be said to be an improvement. In the past, the government sent their favorites to certain positions, which has been severely criticized.
As professional skills and knowledge have been the most important criteria when hiring heads of public companies, increasing numbers of senior government officials have moved to public companies that they used to supervise.
Lately, many senior government officials are submitting resignation letters with plans to move to public companies. After resigning, they apply to become heads of public companies. That is far from the fair and transparent way of choosing heads of public companies that the government has promised to implement.
This practice impedes plans to employ outside figures as heads and impairs the proper performance of bureaucracy.
When an ex-high government official at a government body that has the right to recommend candidates joins the competition, it will be hard for a figure who has no experience as a civil servant to apply for the same job.
This is particularly true because Koreans feel uncomfortable inviting themselves to become leaders. They prefer to be invited by others to take the job, which could discourage qualified applicants who feel reluctant to take part in a public competition.
As a result, if an ex-senior government official is recommended by the government body that he or she used to work for, the suspicion as to whether the person had resigned in return for the promise of a leadership position will grow stronger.
The biggest problem with a high government official moving from a government body to a public company is that autonomy of public companies will be damaged and the government might start interfering in those companies.
When the head of a subordinate public company used to belong to a government body that supervises it, the latter cannot monitor and regulate the former as it should.
As a result, management of public companies will become ineffective, weakening their competitiveness and increasing burdens on the people.
Even though these problems are expected to occur, this practice is not prohibited because the current laws on ethics for public servants place no restraints on high government officials from resigning from government bodies and moving to public companies immediately.
In the private sector, there is a principle under which people cannot find new jobs within two years after resignation. This rule is not observed by public and semi-public companies.
The laws on ethics for public servants should be revised so that government officials cannot take high-ranking jobs at public and semi-public companies for one or two years after leaving office unless there are unavoidable reasons.
Those responsible for employing the heads of public companies should make a point of hiring people in a fair and transparent manner.
In the market there are mechanisms to check effectiveness in management through competition and domestic reforms.
But as such mechanisms are absent in public companies, the performance of these companies are dependent solely on the heads’ competence in running them. Thus, in order to check the accomplishments of public companies, the methods of choosing leaders should change. The employment methods should be open, transparent and fair in order for people with professional skills, knowledge and competence to be employed for the right jobs.
The incumbent government, which has cried for reforms, should show that it is paying attention to employment practices of executives for public companies, an issue the people are keenly watching. It also should guarantee the autonomy of public companies so that senior executives there can display their competence to the fullest.

*The writer is a professor of public administration at Chonnam National University.Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kwak Chae-ki
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