[Viewpoin]Friends in high places

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[Viewpoin]Friends in high places

I don’t know what he is thinking. How much more trouble does he need to go through before he pulls himself together? Not so long ago, President Lee Myung-bak’s controversial appointments of wealthy, Christian, Korea University alumni to important posts upset the citizens. Does he think he can do as he wishes now that the candles have gone out?

Does he not care about the sense of isolation, deprivation and betrayal the silent majority feels as people observe the party of insiders? Is he stubborn or stupid? Unqualified candidates are appointed to high positions as if they are coming down from the sky in parachutes.

I would like to recommend “Human Politics,” by Choi Han-gi, a scholar of the School of Practical Learning in the late Joseon period, to the former CEO. It is a book about human resources with a comprehensive guide on how to recognize, train and appoint talented people. Leemight find the five-volume book tedious, but reading Human Politics during his summer vacation will make the rest of his term a lot easier. Frankly, I am begging the president to read this book to keep me from killing myself out of frustration and fury in the heat of summer.

As he reads it, he might blush in embarrassment.

“If a master makes appointment decisions, he must take the position and the candidates into account, but a narrow-minded man is limited in his capacity” to choose good candidates.

After all, there was a reason why he only favored rich, Christian, Korea University alumni. “A man with a superficial perspective likes to recommend his friends, makes biased appointments to important positions and values personal relationships and favors instead of competence.”

There is no other way to explain how someone with no knowledge about finance was unofficially chosen as chairman of the Korea Credit Guarantee Fund because he made a contribution to President Lee’s election victory but did not get a party nomination in the general elections. A three-term assemblyman with no expertise is going to be the president of the National Health Insurance Corporation, proving that the president is making decisions based on paying back favors.

While the designate or the designator might say such an appointment is reasonable, everyone else thinks otherwise. Because of the rumor that the appointment was already unofficially decided, the other candidate did not show up for the interview.

While the candles were burning, parachutes were being dropped. Those who had personal connections with the president through school, church or business were appointed to head KoRail, Korea Land Corporation, Woori Financial Group, Korean National Housing Corporation and Korea Expressway Corporation. In the future, more of the president’s friends will be appointed. The public corporations actually welcome the new chiefs because they have nothing to lose if their leaders are close to the president. And public corporation reform is becoming a distant memory.

Choi Han-gi said it centuries ago. “The superficial man wants to pay back favors and grudges and bow to requests, so he has no time to contemplate right from wrong and success from failure.”

I hope the president will not close the book halfway through. If he starts reading, he whould learn a lesson eventually.

“Talented people with experience and competence are aging in vain, and only the unqualified and unfit politicians remain. If you fail to resist personal feelings and lament that there is no suitable candidate, you do not know that there are always enough talented people at any given time. If such a pattern lasts long, the nation will grow weak, but if you understand that people only wish for wise and talented figures, recovery won’t be difficult.”

You will see a light in the darkness. Whether it is the economy, inter-Korean relations or the Dokdo dispute, the only way to untie the knot is to appoint the right candidate. All the tangles are caused by careless appointments. Choi Han-gi agrees: “When bad appointments are made in a time of peace, all kinds of evil will appear, and it is hard to change. Looking for someone to settle the trouble only after the public gets noisy is like digging a well after you become thirsty.”

If the president is so busy that he cannot afford to read a book, he should keep one thing in mind. Confucius summarized the thoughts simply: “To govern is to win people.” The point is to win new people, not recycle old friends.

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

By Lee Hoon-beom
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