[Viewpoint]Patronage games

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[Viewpoint]Patronage games

The phrase “public enterprises” brings to mind several images such as lax and irregular management, huge bonuses and the so-called “parachute appointments” of former politicians into high-ranking posts.
A few months ago, a luxurious sightseeing tour to Iguazu Falls in Brazil was added to this list. Now, notebook computers, too, worth 2 million won ($2,200) have been added to the above images. A public company presented them recently to all of its employees. Another company paid the expenses for health checkups of former employees who retired from their public jobs earlier than the mandatory retirement age.
Koreans ridiculed the public companies by calling them God-given -- or even envied by God -- workplaces. Putting aside the greed of the companies’ employees, if the managers of the public companies were mindful of taxpayers’ money, there wouldn’t be so many such frustrating incidents.
One common quality among the chief executives of public companies is that they are former politicians -- parachute appointees. Even if they do not have any expertise in their current field, they should at least be armed with strict ethical standards. But, they are not. What they do is tantamount to stealing tax money under the guise of promoting the welfare of their employees.
In the sports arena, too, there are several heads of organizations who were appointed by the current government. One of them is Shin Sang-woo, the commissioner of the Korean Baseball Organization.
As a matter of formality, Shin was recommended to the post by the owners of baseball clubs, but it would not have been possible for him to be at the helm if he had not graduated from Busan Commercial High School, the high school from which President Roh Moo-hyun graduated. He is also a vocal supporter of President Roh.
The biggest pending issue in the baseball world is the sale of the the Hyundai Unicorns club. No corporation has been interested in buying the team.
Commissioner Shin held a press conference last week to declare, “The problems related to the sale of the Hyundai Unicorns will be resolved by the end of November. Discussions on the details of the deal are under way, with one company interested in the club.”
In January of this year, he pledged that the problems related to the Hyundai Unicorns would be resolved in the first half of this year. In May, he prolonged the deadline to the end of July. Now he has given an assurance that the deal will be concluded by the end of November. Despite his repeated assurances, the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, which once expressed an intention to take over the troubled Hyundai club, dropped out of the picture. The new potential buyer who came into the picture recently is said to be a shipping company which does not put much weight on the publicity effect that a baseball club owner enjoys. So the prospect for a deal is dim.
Shin’s public pledge about the construction of a domed baseball stadium has followed this pattern.
When a memorandum for the construction of a domed baseball stadium was signed by the mayor of Ansan, Gyeonggi, the president of Hyundai Construction Company and Commissioner Shin in May, Shin made a promise that “the construction work will begin early next year.” However, no progress has been made on the construction since then, with no detailed blueprints.
In contrast, the self-sacrificing attitude of Kim Jung-kil, the chairman of the Korea Sports Council, has set an example for others to follow. It is hard to deny that he is also a political appointee, but he has been applauded for managing the sports council in a fair and transparent manner.
In order not to create an obstacle to Pyeongchang’s efforts to host the Winter Olympics, Kim declared early this year that he would give up his plans to run for election to become a member of the International Olympic Committee. Now, he is leading a clean-up campaign in the sports world after declaring he will not seek renomination to his present post.
He is now fighting to rid the sports world of chronic deseases such as corruption, unfair judgments and physical punishment.
He also said, “As the chairman of the Korea Sports Council, I consider it the highest compliment that I contributed to make our sports arena a place for transparent and fair competition.”
Parachute nominations sometimes work, don’t they?

*The writer is a deputy sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Shin Dong-jae
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