[View point]Lee’s insider politicsIn my last column, I had suggested the president read “Human Politics” during his summer vacation. It is a human resources guide written by Choi Han-gi, a scholar of the School of Practical Learning and a scientific philosopher from the late Joseon period.
I made the recommendation out of a hope that Lee Myung-bak would impress Korean citizens with a more sophisticated and dignified HR policy after disappointing them with imprudent appointments on several occasions.
However, our president seems to have reread the book he distributed to his secretaries in the first place - “We Shall Not Fail: The Inspiring Leadership of Winston Churchill.”
He must have highlighted the parts about Churchill’s breakthrough. If not, there is no way he would be so stubborn in pushing his opinions.
He has been told that there should not be any more “parachute appointments,” but whenever there is a vacancy, he appoints someone who has done him a favor, or is a friend, or is the friend of a person who did him a favor. I am not sure if he is unwilling or unable to listen to another’s advice.
No past administration has been free of parachute appointments, but we know they at least had some decency. Past administrations did not brag about barring those who lost their party’s nomination or the general election from holding a public position for six months and prioritizing civilian specialists over career public servants and politicians.
Past administrations did not attempt to fool citizens like the Lee administration, which made many fancy promises it never intended to keep.
It would be exhausting to name all the cases of parachute appointments that paid back favors.
And there is a longer line of benefactors and friends waiting to become the presidents and inspectors of public corporations.
These are supposed to be people who share the president’s political philosophy, but you cannot help but notice that they are political drifters who have failed in bids to enter the National Assembly or civil servants who do not have a position at the moment.
At first, the administration acted with discretion, but now it openly promotes insiders. The administration’s popularity has hit bottom anyway, so it must have calculated that it is better to have as many cronies as possible in place to take the initiative in the future.
I have always thought that Jung Yun-joo, president of the Korea Broadcasting System, should step down because he was a parachute appointment of the Roh Moo-hyun administration.
But I was equally displeased with the Lee administration’s decision to kick him out. It seems obvious KBS will get another parachute with the Lee Myung-bak brand name on it.
Maybe the president believes there are more important things to do than making appointments now. He might think he needs to fill vacancies as soon as possible and order whomever he chooses to carry out his will. If so, he should think again.
There is an old saying, “You have to work hard to win wise men, and you can be comfortable by hiring them.” If he shirks efforts to find the right people, the people he does choose will end up being a burden. He will soon find an answer for why the public withdrew its support and turned their backs on him.
If the president hopes to pursue his objectives freely, he needs to first make prudent appointments. He has to open his ears and eyes and employ people from a wider pool. Only then will he win the support of the public and escape from the vicious trap he is in.
He could have found the secret in Human Politics, which I recommended. We don’t have time to wait till his winter vacation, so I want to read him an excerpt:
“The most urgent task in righteous politics is to be with the people, but when you lack insight, you will only listen to flattering words instead of divergent opinions. And you will only meet those who have personal connections or use bribes to ask for public positions.
“When this becomes a habit and your perspective becomes limited, those who truly know management will run far and hide, and those who pursue money and fame will prevail. In the end, people will be disappointed and hold a grudge against you.”
If the president thinks personnel management is easy, he’d better be ready to face more public anger.
The government is eager to turn over a new leaf. The president might be benchmarking French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who went through similar difficulties.
Certainly, there is something to learn from Sarkozy: A politics of integration that promotes talent from opposition factions, not the politics of engineering projects, will turn Gwanghwamun into a Champs-Elysees.
*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hoon-beom