Is the party over? It’s highly unlikely“Who owns public corporations?”
The government comes to mind first, because when the administration changes, the new government replaces the CEO by sending a new head in on a parachute. Since most of the positions are chosen by the Blue House, public corporations may be owned by the government, especially the Blue House.
But that’s not entirely true, as taxpayers’ money is involved here. When public corporations struggle, citizens rescue them.
So, do the citizens own the public corporations? It doesn’t sound realistic because none of us considers ourselves the owners of public corporations or exercises that management right.
How about the employees at public corporations? In fact, they have the best job security, never getting laid off regardless of performance. They are paid high salaries even when the company is in the red. However, does it mean that they are the owners? They may have the “jobs that even God envies,” but they aren’t the owners, just the employees.
Now, it seems like public corporations have no owner. They are like common land, with no owner. When herders let their cows graze on an owner-less parcel of land, cows overexploit the grass. The pasture would be devastated, and the cows would starve in the end. That metaphor applies to public corporations as well.
The Park Geun-hye administration is willing to reform public corporations. Deputy Prime Minister Hyun Oh-seok said, “The party is over.”
He sounded resolute. But he certainly doesn’t understand the essence of the problem. When the president is appointed as head of public corporations through a parachute appointment, he or she is not likely to manage them as his own. He would want to take as many benefits as he can in his three-year tenure. Knowing the president’s weakness, the union would try to make a deal. The president would then overlook the union’s exploitation. In the meadow with no owner, first-comers get to graze on whatever is offered. Public corporations are born with the gene of “slack management.”
You are naive to think that appointing a responsible and considerate CEO and training the employees would solve the problem. No power can neglect those asking for a juicy position in return for helping in the election campaign. While the Park administration says the party is over, they are sending those who contributed to her election victory to key positions on “golden parachutes.”
Can this administration pursue public corporation reform? The core of the reform is privatization, but the government has not mentioned it at all. When there is an owner, he would economize, work hard and plan for the future. Public corporation reform without privatization is a vain attempt.
*The author is the new media editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by KIM JONG-YOON