Nepotism in the public sector

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Nepotism in the public sector

Questions about Seoul Metro’s suspicious hiring practices have spread to the entire public sector. Six subcontractors of the Incheon International Airport Corporation had 14 nepotistic hiring cases. The public airport authority was the first place President Moon Jae-in visited after being inaugurated in May 2017 to announce his ambitious plan to radically reduce the number of contract workers in the public sector. The airport upgraded all of its 10,000 contract-based hires to permanent employment status. Upon learning of the president’s push, an executive of a partner company of the airport authority recruited his four nephews with an apparent motive to have them benefit from eventual upgrades in their status.

At Seoul Metro, 109 relatives of its employees took advantage of the subway authority’s promotion of 1,283 long-term contract workers since March. An HR executive exploited the opportunity to put his wife on the permanent payroll.

Nepotism could not be restricted to those two public institutions. The union of public enterprises, which has enormous power, could have capitalized on the government’s campaign to turn all workers in the public sector into full-timers. The union could have abused its power to strengthen its vested rights. Any members of the public are petitioning the Blue House to demand a thorough probe into all public institutions. The legislature and the Board of Audit and Inspection must investigate now.

Nepotism will make our young hopeless jobseekers feel even worse. Such practices are illegal under the Employment Policy Act. But the tradition exists in large workplaces as it is a popular platform of unions. Hyundai Motor and 28 other companies have provisions to give preferences to family members of their workers when hiring. The Ministry of Employment and Labor merely issues remedial advice so as not to provoke the unions.

The public is enraged about the corrupt hiring practices not just because of the unfairness, but also because it has become harder to find jobs. Jobs have become rarer under the liberal government, and one way of getting them is to use connections. Is Korea going back to feudalism?

JoongAng Sunday, Oct. 20-21, Page 34
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