The Cho Kuk questionCho Hyun-ock, the former personnel affairs secretary for President Moon Jae-in, expressed “regrets” over “appointments that did not meet the public’s standards” as she left the Blue House after she was replaced along with several vice ministers. It was the first time a staffer at this Blue House admitted to the government’s mistakes in appointments.
Over the last two years, 11 vice-ministerial-level officials stepped down after confirmation hearings and 15 ministerial-level officials took office without legislative endorsements because of serious questions about their past.
The belated apology from the outgoing secretary is a lesser problem. The person who is directly responsible for a series of appointment failures remains seated. Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, is responsible for filtering out the short-listed candidates for public posts.
Retaining him could suggest President Moon does not take the appointment mistakes and criticism about them seriously. Moon recently encouraged government ministers, telling them that they were doing “a good job” and that he disagrees with the criticism of their appointments.
The two Chos came under fire for every poor choice for senior public posts.
They may argue that they had a small pool to start with, as figures were sought from within the boundaries of ideology and had to be in sync with the liberal president. Still, their responsibilities should not be taken lightly. The civil affairs office in the Blue House must be either impotent or complacent, as it does not go against the will of the president. Both aides neglected their duty.
The civil affairs office is a powerful division responsible for not just appointments and public service discipline but also oversight of corruption in public office.
Cho Kuk is also responsible for upholding public service discipline. During a recent meeting with cabinet ministers, Moon called for a toughening of discipline in public service after the controversial leak of his recent private phone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump. But with discipline in the Blue House itself in question, Cho is not the best person to set the house back in order. Without getting rid of Cho, no meaningful improvements can be expected in public service discipline or appointments.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 30, Page 30