Thorough screening neededPresident-elect Park Geun-hye’s first key appointments for her transition committee have revealed not a few errors because of an insufficient screening system and some appointees’ indiscreet behavior. Park must pause to review her appointment process and apply stricter standards for new appointments. If not, she could potentially have a devastating personnel fiasco when her new administration kicks off in February.
One of the biggest flaws with her appointments stems from her tendency to make choices based on a small group, her inner circle. At a press briefing, Yoon Chang-jung, chief spokesman of the transition team, opened a sealed-off envelope with the names of her first appointments - even without knowing who they were. Despite some need for secrecy in her first decisions as president-elect, it goes against common sense to keep the entire selection process secret and end up without sufficient explanations for her choice.
Appointments for a transition committee must be different from those for political parties. Getting information about a candidate based on a small inner circle can hardly guarantee success. For instance, Yoon, a former ultraconservative journalist, has often raised controversy by using vulgar words when referring to his opponents. A member of Park’s youth committee was sentenced to 1.8 million won ($1,690) in fines for taking bribes from a fellow member of the Seoul City Council. These violations could have easily been checked in the scrutinizing process for public office nominees. If Park was not aware of such skeletons in the candidates’ closets, there are serious loopholes in her scrutinizing process. On the other hand, if she already knew these problems, she should have fully explained why she made the choices.
The way some appointees behave is also a problem. Yoon came under fire for having reversed his earlier pledge not to assume a new post in the new administration. Kim Kyung-jae, vice chairman of Park’s national integration committee, evoked criticism for his rash proposal to move the now-defunct Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries from Busan to Muan, South Jeolla - without even consulting with Park. During her campaign, Park pledged to re-establish the ministry and place it in Busan.
Park should build an effective system for scrutinizing appointees by getting support from the Blue House. If Park blindly adheres to the principle of secrecy in her appointments, it will backfire. The launch of a new administration should not be shaken by a careless verification process.