Disgusted with Korean politicsKorean-American entrepreneur Kim Jeong-hun has walked away from his nomination as minister of the proposed Ministry of Future Planning and Science. The former president of Bell Labs and chief strategy officer of Alcatel-Lucent said he was giving up the post out of disgust for Korean politics. He said he folded his original plan to devote himself to his homeland after watching the sorry political display that has the government deadlocked over the president’s government reorganization plan.
The ministry he was picked to lead would be part of the administration revamp, and would be tasked with fostering innovation to generate new growth for the Korean economy. Kim said he was left dejected by the political bickering over a ministry that could provide a turning point and shape the nation’s future.
Kim’s appointment had been a surprise and his decision to step down reflects a deep disappointment with the political game of chicken that we are seeing. His is a textbook success story of entrepreneurship and pursuing the American dream. Kim overcame poverty and racial discrimination to ascend to executive heights at Bell Labs, an idea factory that has generated more than 10 Nobel Prize laureates. Many had high hopes for how Kim would influence the public sector with his rich experience of innovation and entrepreneurship. The real reason for his resignation is still unclear, but what we can conclude from his words is that our underdeveloped political sector scared away an outstanding talent from overseas.
Yet it’s irresponsible of Kim to walk away from the post simply because he’s disgusted with how politics are conducted here. His feelings are understandable, but the people have been confounded by President Park Geun-hye’s string of appointment flops. Kim said he had accepted the offer for the important post because he believed Korea’s future depends on the inventive economy championed by President Park. He even gave up his privileges in the United States because he was committed to the new challenges being put before him. If he really was so attached to the post, he should have endured the attacks from the opposition camp.
The controversy over his appointment also raises an important question about the stubborn adherence to homogeneity in our society. The country cannot advance if it discriminates against people of foreign nationality or citizenship. A closed society cannot make its way forward in the age of convergence and invention. Kim’s withdrawal should make the political sector take a long, hard look at its outdated perspective.