Public institutions to stay leaderless

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Public institutions to stay leaderless

After President Park Geun-hye said the government will crack down on any connections between ministries and industries in her address to the nation on Monday, attention has turned to the appointment of heads of public institutions, which are known as a hot bed of parachute appointments made either by the president or other powerful politicians.

Due to the president’s pledge to reform the public sector, top or executive positions that are currently empty at as many as 24 public institutions will likely remain so until the government devises a plan.

President Park mentioned three key points to restructure public institutions: crack down on collusion between the government and industries, ban bribery, and restrict retired government officials from working in the private sector.

The Korea Housing Finance Corporation, Incheon International Airport Corporation and 11 other institutions have had no leader for the past few months, and the vacancies will likely last since it will take at least two months for the government to set new rules for nominating appropriate candidates for the posts.

In the past, the heads of many of the institutions were from the Ministry of Strategy and Finance or the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

According to Alio, a website that compiles information on the management of public institutions, as of yesterday, 49 percent of the 153 leaders of public institutions who were nominated after Feb. 25 last year when Park was inaugurated were found to be close allies of the president.

According to a survey by the JoongAng Ilbo conducted early this year, a new trend in “parachute appointments,” or revolving-door appointments, has emerged.

As of January, 15 out of 40 newly nominated executives of public companies were found to be politicians from the ruling Saenuri Party.

The Finance Ministry says nominations of heads of institutions are made in a transparent way through voluntary recommendations of candidates at each institution and strict deliberation by the public institution operation committee.

However, the committee’s deliberation process is often influenced by external factors as seen in the many cases of parachute appointments.

In August, when the state-run railway operator Korail was nominating a new CEO, the committee rejected three of the final candidates recommended by Korail. Choi Yeon-hye, the current CEO of the company, was then put on a new list of candidates and was chosen to lead it. Choi is known to be a political ally of the president.

Some government officials find the president’s pledge to cut ties between the government and industries quite disturbing due to the recent parachute nominations of former politicians.

“We are getting stripped of positions that were available to us in the past,” said a director-level government official at the Finance Ministry.

Outside experts also doubted the president’s willingness.

“Not only ‘gwanfia’ but also all kinds of parachute appointments should be eliminated in order to reform the public sector,” said an economist at a private think tank.


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