Learning from appointment fiasco

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Learning from appointment fiasco

President-elect Park Geyn-hye’s first appointment, Kim Yong-joon, gave up his nomination for prime minister just five days after he began to be scrutinized by lawmakers and media. “I apologize for causing concern to the people and president-elect due to my shortcomings in virtue,” he said in a statement.

Kim retained a respectable reputation in the judiciary community and among the public with modesty and conviction. He often proclaimed that “an ideal legal practitioner should live upright, work diligently and die poor.”

But his personal life told a different story. His sons were exempted from mandatory military service - a fact known to doom politicians. Lee Hoi-chang failed twice in his presidential bids in 1997 and 2002 because the public never forgave his two sons for not having served in the military.

There is also testimony that Kim purchased a vast plot of land and other real estate for his sons while they were in kindergarten. A huge chunk of land in a posh neighborhood in southern Seoul was purchased and registered in the names of his two sons, who weren’t even 10 at the time.

Due to these facts, even the ruling Saenuri Party was skeptical about the outcome of his confirmation hearing. Ethical questions have stopped Kim and dealt a heavy blow to the president-elect.

What’s important now is learning from the mistakes. The president-elect should seek outside help in scrutinizing the credentials of potential candidates for government posts. Military records and real estate problems should be the first matters on the table as they are the most controversial in our society. They are the first things the public and lawmakers look up since all senior officials have been required to report personal wealth and assets from the 1990s. Confirmation hearings were adopted in the mid-2000s.

The controversy suggests that Park did not even conduct a basic background check on Kim. She should seek expert help if necessary in reviewing candidates for government office. She should not repeat the mistakes of President Lee Myung-bak, who made bad appointments throughout his term.

Park should also end all secrecy about her appointments. One or two aides cannot help her get the full picture of candidates.

She must have names for presidential secretaries and cabinet ministers ready before she takes office next month. In total, this means looking at over 60 names to fill over 20 ministerial-level posts in 17 government agencies. If missteps are repeated, her leadership capability and insight could be questioned. We hope Kim is her first and last mistake on personnel matters.
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