[Viewpoint]Ugly signs at the Culture Ministry

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[Viewpoint]Ugly signs at the Culture Ministry

Yu In-chon, minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the day before yesterday, “It is natural that the heads of the cultural and art organizations who shared the political tint of the past administration should resign.”
He added that if the heads of organizations appointed under the Roh Moo-hyun administration keep their posts, they would have to reverse the way they’ve acted so far.
Against this backdrop, naturally, the 11 organizations directly responsible to the Culture Ministry and their 34 subsidiaries are in a state of turmoil.
Some of the leaders said they would not step down, remarking, “I was appointed to this leadership post because of my expertise, not due to the Roh government’s assessment of my political leanings.”
Of course, there are some cases that support this assertion.
However, if people insist the Roh administration never chose people because of their political orientation, they are definitely not telling the truth.
Even a mere child knows the procedures followed by the open recruitment, or recommending committee, were mostly skin-deep.
The Culture Ministry is a prime example.
In 2006, when a term of office came to an end for A, a leader of an organization; B, a leading magnate in academic circles; and C, a young dark horse.
The Culture Ministry had the power to choose among A, B and C. People said, for example, that the winner would probably be B, or at least A would be reappointed. At the last moment, B was confident enough about his appointment that he declined an offer from a university to chair there.
However, C got the appointment. He was favored by a progressive political bigwig, D. Rumors often flew that D urged the Blue House to appoint C.
Similar rumors have spread countless times during the past decade.
Therefore, no one can persist in the idea that personnel policies based on political leanings never existed.
However, I believe it is wrong to make sweeping criticisms of them only because they were appointed to their posts by the previous administration.
I can relate to Yu’s expression, “those who have the same political tint as the previous administration.” If a politician is appointed to the post of chairman or inspector of a public corporation, he should step down from his post as soon as the political regime changed.
However, we understand that a diversity of appointments occurred in the Culture Ministry, some for political reasons and others for professional ones.
The people in the culture and art fields are not alike.
Some are beloved, whereas some are disliked.
In this regard, we need to be very careful when we select the best candidate.
If someone was chosen because he had the same political leanings as the Roh administration, not because of his qualifications, then he or she should resign instantly.
However, someone duly entitled to a post, regardless of their political orientation, should be dealt with differently.
Moreover, many of the organizations under the Culture Ministry are groups or supporting institutions that back artists who cling stubbornly to their free will and creative ideas.
If Yu does not intend to repeat the previous administrations’ management style, in which they chose people with their same leanings, then I sincerely hope he takes the road toward harmonious unification of the people, rather than separating them by their political orientation.
A Western film titled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” airs on television from time to time in Korea.
I hope the new government will embrace “the bad” and “the ugly” as well as “the good,” at least in the culture and art fields, because they have different political opinions but are talented people.
Then, we can gain a spillover effect, in which the abuses of in-party breeding can be remedied in the cultural circles.
However, the truly “ugly,” who only buy favors with flattery, should be punished ruthlessly.
There is a big possibility that people with one set of political leanings will be replaced with another group with another set of leanings.
I’m worried that the ministry will be crowded with “the ugly,” not “the good” or “the bad.”

*The writer is the senior culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun
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