For a more equal leadership

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For a more equal leadership

The Park Geun-hye administration is to be launched next week. In a modern democracy, a regime change goes through two steps - an election and the composition of the administration. While citizens make a choice in the election, the composition of the administration is solely up to the winner. Especially the procedure and choices of the early administration are so crucial that they can determine the success and failure of the particular president and administration.

Park Geun-hye’s moves since the presidential election victory contain clear signs that allow us to predict the methods and course of her politics and administration.

The most obvious trend is the controversy over illegality, corruption, legal violations, qualification, ethics and patriotism of the candidates for public positions. The controversy in government formation is considered the most serious since democratization.

As we looked at the naked faces of successful conservative elites of Korean society, we came to realize why the sages of humanity since Aristotle have agonized over the issue of “agathos anthropos” and “agathos polites,” or “a good man” and “good citizen.”

Each of these good men who are competent and successful makes a bad citizen when it comes to the virtues of community and civil ethics. For a more mature society, the correlation between personal, individual success and public, civic ethics should be the key question of the community.

The process of the appointments needs to be thoroughly reviewed. It is very rare in a democratic nation that candidates for high-ranking public positions are selected by a handful of people secretly and announced so suddenly. They have not provided detailed reasons for the choices.

Openness, communication, transparency and predictability are core principles that distinguish democracies from other ruling systems. In a democracy, the formation of the high-level public positions can never be a personal decision or secret command of a monarch or an emperor. It should be an extension of the election, what is called the “virtual election” in political science. So the choices are half-election from below and half-appointment from above.

The contents of the government formation also evoke serious concerns. Since these candidates were individually selected by the president-elect, there is no way of knowing whether they have worked together for a grander vision as a group, a team, a network or a government. I cannot help but question whether they can “collectively” prepare, train, coordinate and execute policies in economy, welfare, education, foreign policy and inter-Korean relations as “one government.”

A more crucial problem is the matter of representativeness and accountability. A democratic government is a government of a political party. However, Park’s government cannot be seen as a government of the Saenuri Party for its process of nomination and actual formation. It is not a government that represents the conservative either, and it is needless to say that it is hardly a coalition or national integration that embraces the other parties and factions.

Moreover, the nominees have little consistency or accountability on key campaign policy promises, such as national integration, fairness, welfare and economic democratization. This is far removed from party politics and responsible politics. Instead of bringing along her campaign camp, ruling party and the conservatives, the Park Geun-hye administration wants to become a one-man government of the president. However, she is mistaken to think a few aides, secretaries, friends and officials selected from above can manage a nation the size of Korea.

Since democratization, the Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-joong, Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak administrations made appointments based on political and social representativeness by reflecting the democratic diversity of the Korean society. It was an attempt to overcome the systematic irresponsibility from the single presidential term through political accountability. In addition to the existing bureaucrats and vested interests, at least one-third to one-half of the posts were filled with people who represent different parties, democratization activists, civil society and labor and women’s groups. Also, consideration was made for regional, generational, media and ideological representation. The state administration of Korea is so challenging that the government has failed to resolve various issues in spite of these efforts.

In the making of Park’s government, political and social representation was completely ignored. It is the first and only government to exclude representation of democratic figures and isolated classes. When vertical promotion and hierarchy replaces political and social representation, a democracy is likely to be deformed to have rule without politics, a government without political parties. Political camaraderie, horizontal networks, civil participation, dialogue and governance will be lost, and only the vertical hierarchy of cronies, aides, secretaries and bureaucrats will remain.

For a successful government, Park must keep in mind that autonomy and ability, authority and responsibility, representation and accountability, horizontal appointments and participation go together. And these values are the core of a successful democratic government.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.


*The author is a professor at Yonsei University and a visiting professor at School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in France.

by Park Myung-rim
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