Too much talk, not enough actionWhat matters is action, but the government is doing poorly when it comes to appointments. The Ministry of Strategy and Finance proposed strict qualification standards in order to put a stop to the long tradition of parachute, or revolving-door, appointments, placing people with political connections to the president or ruling party in high places at public enterprises.
In a New Year’s report to the president on Feb. 20, Hyun Oh-seok, finance minister and deputy prime minister for the economy, pledged to set qualifications for executive positions at public institutions so that no one without more than five years of related experience can land a job.
But the following the day, the government appointed Lee Sang-kwon, a former Saenuri Party lawmaker and political ally of President Park Geun-hye, to head the Korea Electrical Safety Corporation. The only related experience in the field that the former state prosecutor had was his time on the National Assembly’s Trade, Industry and Energy Committee.
Hong Pyo-geun, who was a co-leader of the women’s affairs division on the campaign team for Park, was nominated as the senior auditor at the Korea Resources Corporation. Kang Yo-shik, a professor who served as the deputy spokesman for the Grand National Party (now the Saenuri Party) who was in charge of social media during Park’s election campaign and wrote a book on Korea’s first female president, was given the auditing job at Korea East-West Power.
Outside auditors supervise management and monitor for corruption in public enterprises. If executive and audit jobs are filled with people whose sole qualification is their affiliation with the president and government, they can waste taxpayers’ money by producing projects promoting themselves or their benefactors and paying off labor unions to keep them silent. Unless cronyism in public institutions is rooted out, we are not likely to get the kind of results necessary to persuade the people and labor of the effectiveness of public sector reforms.
The government keeps talking about its reform initiative, but its actions are few. If it keeps on sending unqualified politicians and bureaucrats to head or oversee public corporations, few will have any faith in government pledges.
From what we have seen so far, all of the government’s words may have been for publicity.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 24, Page 34