Dubious appointments

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Dubious appointments

The government would like to appoint three former officials as ambassadors.

Former Senior Secretary for Economic Affairs Kim Choong-soo has been designated to be Korea’s ambassador to the OECD. The former deputy minister of the Strategy and Finance Ministry, Choi Joong-kyung, and the former president of Sungshin Women’s University, Koo Yang-keun, were both nominated to embassies in Asia.

The Democratic Party has given different reasons for criticizing the appointments. It says the proposed appointments are gestures of gratitude that deceive and patronize the people of this country.

We don’t think Kim’s appointment is problematic. He left office due to the U.S. beef import crisis and was not directly involved in the beef negotiations.

The problem is former Vice Minister Choi. On July 10, Grand National Party lawmaker Park Hee-tae told the Blue House that the general feeling in the country was that sacking the deputy minister to keep Finance Minister Kang Man-soo in office was difficult to accept.

President Lee Myung-bak admitted it looked like the administration was changing the deputy minister instead of the minister, but Lee said the deputy minister was sacked for another reason, which naturally gave rise to a number of suspicions.

People guessed it was because Deputy Minister Choi had made a major mistake in another policy or did not respond to events properly. But, having punished Choi for reasons unknown, the administration is now planning to appoint him to another important public post.

If Choi was sacked for some wrongdoing, we cannot understand why President Lee would want to appoint him as an ambassador. If Choi was blameless and the fall guy for the finance minister, we have to assume that Choi’s ambassadorship is a form of compensation.

Koo is also under fire. He was criticized last July for publicly endorsing, with other professors, Lee Myung-bak’s presidential bid last year, while he was still president of Sungshin. Regardless of the opinions of the university staff, Koo threw his weight as university president behind a political camp. Koo’s support for Lee further fueled the poliprofessor (politics + professor) debate.

Is the president again appointing people in gratitude, following appointments to the Blue House and his cabinet of officials based on their affiliation to his alma mater, church, home region and so forth?
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