No more parachute appointmentsParachute appointments — handouts of senior positions at public institutions to reward politicians and figures for their contribution to the election of a president — have long been a political tradition in Korea regardless of which party the president is from. Despite its vows to rid past wrongdoings, the Moon administration has stayed true to this tradition. Korea Railroad Corp. (Korail), which has experienced a series of accidents over the past three weeks — including the latest KTX derailment on Saturday — is a typical case.
Its CEO Oh Young-sik, a three-term lawmaker, has never been even near a railway during his career. Of 37 senior executives at Korail and five subsidiaries, 13 were recruits from Moon’s campaign headquarters. A non-standing board of a retail arm of Korail is headed by a former operator of an online fan club of Moon. It may not be a coincidence that Korail trains have caused as many as 10 accidents over the last three weeks.
These cases are plentiful. Kim Hyung-keun, CEO of Korea Gas Safety, served as a councilman in North Chungcheong province and a deputy spokesman for the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, now the ruling Democratic Party. He also has little knowledge about gas safety. Hwang Chang-hwa, CEO of Korea District Heating Corp., used to be a secretary for Han Myeong-sook, former prime minister under the liberal President Roh Moo-hyun in the 2000s.
Kim is under pressure to resign over allegations of over-spending with a corporate credit card. Hwang caused a public uproar for cracking up while he was being briefed about the fatal burst of an underground boiling pipe that killed a man in his car. Politicians without expertise trying their hand at positions in the public and science administration have often been at the center of controversies.
President Moon apologized for the KTX bullet train derailment and ordered a thorough investigation and preventive actions to regain public confidence.
But first, he must stop appointing novices to head public institutions in charge of overseeing public infrastructure and safety.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 11, Page 30