Let’s end ‘parachute’ appointmentsSome conversations leave a lasting memory, especially when you are deeply impressed or sympathize with them. A conversation with Shin Je-yoon, a previous ministry’s international finance inspector, has left a vivid memory. He is humorous and good at making comparisons. I have heard him arguing about why the seniors needed to step down. After the finance minister was replaced, a number of executives resigned and were appointed as heads of finance-related public corporations. He cited the example of the Japanese Ministry of Finance. “We may end up like Japan.
The Okurasho used to monopolize key posts, and because of public criticism, they are no longer getting any jobs. It is about time we stop as well.” I was quite impressed by a finance ministry insider criticizing the ministry officials’ “parachute” appointments.
Just as he said, the “parachute” appointments have decreased in Japan, where the culture originated. Before the 2009 general election, the ruling and opposition parties in Japan pledged to eradicate the practice and passed a regulation as well. While we still get to see occasional articles criticizing unusual parachute appointments in Japanese media, the practice has decreased significantly.
How about Korea? I dare to say the practice has increased. Major positions such as presidents, vice presidents, executives and inspectors at public entities are filled by former bureaucrats. The few public corporation positions that were filled by civilians in the past have been replaced by former officials in what amounts to the “heyday of the bureaucrats.”
The Ministry of Finance alums are not the only ones. Officials at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy say they get treated better after retirement. Ministry of Education officials almost monopolize positions as university presidents, education-related foundations and pension funds after leaving office.
Korean society has been considering the parachute appointment of former officials as a given. As they have passed prestigious national examinations and led the development of the country, these officials are often considered more competent than civilian experts. While the parachutes in politics are strictly criticized by the media, they seem to be more generous to former bureaucrats.
Having worked long hours and getting paid less than their industry counterparts, they seem to think they are getting deferred compensation after retirement. Moreover, they want to be guaranteed a certain level of position, overseas assignments and training, paid vacation between jobs, stable civil servant pensions, and hospitality and reception from related agencies.
Being a bureaucrat here is not bad at all. After getting a humble salary during their service, they enjoy peculiar compensation after retirement with a second career at a public corporation, association or law firm. The practice is far from the global standard, and it is making many young Koreans prepare for civil service exams instead of chasing their dreams. Every day, we learn about some former government official being appointed to an executive position. This is not normal.
*The author is a business news writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Yoon Chang-hee