Gov’t promises slashing of parachute positions

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Gov’t promises slashing of parachute positions

Starting later this year, no one will be appointed to head public institutions or serve as auditors without related career experience, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance announced yesterday.

The Park Geun-hye administration had promised to crack down on the time-honored tradition of parachute, or revolving-door, appointments at public institutions, through which people with political connections are given high-paying jobs heading corporations or acting as auditors.

After corruption scandals in the state-run nuclear energy industry last summer, the government decided to crack down on 304 public entities renowned for lax management and massive debt.

There are about 2,000 senior positions at those institutions.

Hyun Oh-seok, the country’s finance minister and deputy prime minister for the economy, pledged to “take strong measures on a government level to normalize operations of public institutions.”

The Finance Ministry will create a subcommittee to examine the qualifications of executive nominations at public institutions under the existing public institutions management committee.

The new subcommittee will screen the career experience of candidates and filter out those who have no related experience to the job in question.

“In countries like Australia and Greece, more than five years experience related to a particular position at a public institution is mandatory,” said Kim Sang-gyu, a senior official at the ministry.

The ministry plans to establish a more quantifiable set of qualification evaluations to prevent unjustifiable parachute appointments.

“To normalize public institutions, only people with expertise should be appointed executives or heads,” said Lee Sang-bin, a professor at Hanyang University.

President Park agreed with the plan. But it remains to be seen how much impact the new measure will have on a public sector in which cronyism runs deep. Former governments have made similar pledges in the past in vain.

“Past administrations tried to reform public institutions, but there was not much progress because they didn’t stick to principles,” Park said at a meeting with Finance Minister Hyun at the Blue House yesterday. “There will be no compromise this time.”

Despite yesterday’s announcement, the appointment of former Saenuri Party lawmaker Lee Sang-kwon as president of Korea Electrical Safety will be finalized today as planned.

Lee, a former prosecution officer and President Park’s political ally during her time as president of the Grand National Party in 2007, has no related experience.

Kim Won-duck, the new CEO of Korea Construction Management Corporation, who took office on Jan. 10, served as a vice spokesman for the Saenuri Party. Kim’s specialty is politics - a far cry from the civil engineering and architecture expertise needed to run that corporation.

He was recommended by Korea Expressway, its largest shareholder. Kim previously worked with Korea Expressway CEO Kim Hak-song, also from the Saenuri Party. However, the two denied that they had a relationship.

According to a survey by the JoongAng Ilbo, as of January, 37.5 percent of 40 newly nominated heads or managers of 295 public corporations were politicians.

Before November, there were only five former politicians who were appointed

The ministry’s plan also includes cutting debt at public corporations.

“Not only cutting debt and tackling lax management, but increasing productivity of public institutions should also be key goals,” President Park said.

BY SONG SU-HYUN [ssh@joongang.co.kr]



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