[Viewpoint]The best one for the job

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[Viewpoint]The best one for the job

In our world, can there be any other issue more important and more troublesome than personnel appointments? Whether an official is elected, selected through a test, chosen based on experts’ recommendations or handpicked by a powerful leader, each process is a result of serious thinking and deep wisdom. This has been true for thousands of years. Each method has its pros and cons, thus it is hard to say which one is the best. Depending on the post’s importance and characteristics, the method will inevitably be different.

Furthermore, cheating always exists to take advantage of the dark side of a personnel system. Let me remind you of the history of perpetual competition in the spoils system. As the terms “personnel appointments in bed” and “sofa promotions” show, human desire for higher posts goes through thick and thin.

A person who has the right to make personnel appointments doesn’t necessarily feel free to exercise it. Appointing confidantes probably sounds natural, but when it goes too far, such an appointment will be criticized by the public, just like what happened to both the Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak administrations.

That is why the appointment process is as agonizing for the person making the selection as it is for those who wish to be selected. While talented people hesitate, those not good enough line up fast to seek appointments. It is a natural phenomenon that flies gather on a dinner table even before guests sit down.

It’s such an obvious story, but I have elaborated in great detail because Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Yu In-chon probably had similar troubles before appointing the heads of institutions under his ministry. He has just emptied those posts by pressuring the officials appointed by the Roh administration to resign. While the Roh administration said the officials were appointed through an open “job posting and bidding system,” many were actually handpicked because they shared so-called similar codes with Roh. Yu probably wanted to appoint talented people fit for the job.

Therefore, a new system of personnel appointments based on recommendations was introduced. Big names often don’t apply for public jobs. In particular, those who have a good understanding of how things were done during the Roh administration did not want to apply and then later be embarrassed.

The ministry’s decision to introduce a system of making personnel appointments based on recommendations in addition to the current system is an appropriate one. However, the ministry’s inexperience and flustered behavior is pitiful.

Before criticizing the Roh administration’s practice, this administration should first build up its ability to handle the most basic affairs.

The latest victims of the imperfect recommendation system were Kim Min, 66, a former dean of Seoul National University’s College of Music, and Lee Young-jo, 65, a professor at the Korean National University of Arts. They had been designated as the heads of Seoul Arts Center and the National Opera Company of Korea, respectively, and were then later rejected.

The ministry refused to appoint Kim to the post because he was the sole candidate while the other three who were recommended refused to compete. Although Kim had an interview with Minister Yu, the ministry has decided to scrap the process and restart the entire selection process from the beginning because theater actors and musical performers strongly opposed Kim’s designation.

Last year, Kim had applied for the same post and made it to the final three of 12 applicants. Shin Hyun-taek, a long-term culture ministry official, was appointed to the post. From Kim’s point of view, his failure to win the post last year can’t be a reason to disqualify him. Furthermore, he didn’t even apply for the job this year; Others recommended him.

Kim, a musician who led the nation’s renowned Korean Chamber Orchestra for over 28 years, has gone to being a fool in a split-second. “I have been hurt enough already. I don’t want to blame anybody. I will just remain an artist,” Kim said.

The designation of composer Lee Young-jo was protested by some vocalists, who claimed that a vocalist should be the leader of the National Opera Company of Korea. The argument is absurd, but surprisingly, Lee’s long-time friends opposed the appointment. They had performed the major roles in Lee’s opera, “Cheoyong.”

“If I am appointed to the post [in spite of their opposition], I will have to closely consult with them at work. How can I fight them?” Lee said. “It may look cowardly of me to back down, but I have decided to do so because it just felt ugly.”

It is not easy to foster a person of ability in any field. Furthermore, a gifted veteran can only be nurtured by years of hardship and experience. The Culture Ministry has ruined the reputations of masters with its poor handling of business.

I wonder why the ministry pushed the heads of cultural institutions out of their posts while it has no ability to handle the situation. The Culture Ministry was too unconcerned. Or maybe, it wrongly believed the power of culture automatically flows from political power.

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

by Noh Jae-hyun
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