Rethink government appointments

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Rethink government appointments

Hwang Chul-joo, nominee to head the Small and Medium Business Administration, abruptly stepped down yesterday because he did not wish to give up holdings in Jusung Engineering amounting to nearly 70 billion won ($62.9 million). It would be a huge mistake if he regarded the administrator position of a crucial government organization as some sort of outside director of the board. His withdrawal is fortunate if he had such attitudes toward government. But it is not his responsibility alone as the withdrawal resulted from a fundamental problem with the Park Geun-hye administration’s personnel policies.

Any nominee for high government office or candidates for legislative seats are obligated to transfer their shares into a blind trust before taking public positions to avoid potential controversy. It’s common sense that any aspirant for public office should be aware of. Otherwise, the government should inform them of the rule.

It is very hard to comprehend Hwang’s argument that he was not aware of the system even after accepting the government’s call. If he turns out to have accepted the offer without knowing the blind trust system, it only means the Blue House didn’t fully explain it. The Blue House’s explanation that Hwang seems to have misunderstood what it said does not sound convincing.

A strange atmosphere has reportedly been brewing at the Blue House where working-level staff often have trouble explaining problems once decisions come from the top. In such cases, high-level officials usually think their subordinates must have understood what they said, while working-level officials guess that their superiors must have made the right decision. That’s a classic case of poor communication.

This is not the first time that a candidate for a high-level government post has withdrawn. It is hard to forget recent incidents involving Kim Yong-joon, a nominee for prime minister, and Kim Jeong-hun, candidate for head of the new Ministry of Future Planning and Science. At the Blue House alone, as many as five presidential secretary nominees have abandoned their candidacies, not to mention several nominees for government ministers who were beaten up at confirmation hearings. If the new government makes personnel mistakes, it cannot expect to score big on policies.

The more mistakes the new administration makes, the more it loses the people’s trust. As Hwang walks away from his job as many have before him, the government must drastically revamp its personnel policies.
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