No more ‘parachute appointments’The heads of 197 of 340 public institutions are scheduled to be replaced after their three-year terms end this year. The top posts at 12 government-run organizations are vacant, including that of the Korean Land & Housing Corporation, which is empty after its head Byeon Chang-heum was appointed as Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in December. A total of 185 public corporations are waiting for a new boss this year.
That means nearly half of the top positions of government-owned entities are to be replaced with less than 14 months left before the next presidential election in March 2022.
The recruitment of heads of government-run corporations has often been criticized for “worsening their management through revolving-door appointments of people lacking expertise in the field.” Most of the seats were filled with presidential campaign aides. As a candidate, Moon Jae-in promised to stop ‘parachute appointment’ for public entities, but he was no different.
According to the latest data offered by the opposition People Power Party (PPP), the CEOs of nearly one-third of all public corporations came from Moon’s campaign, the DP and other allies as of September 2020. If you include auditors and other board members, the number shot up to 466.
Given the difference between the president’s five-year term and public corporation heads’ three-year terms, such a discrepancy is unavoidable. Nevertheless, the Moon administration must not fill such posts with allies without checking their qualifications. As a result of their pursuit of political ambition and easy compromise with labor unions, public corporations failed to achieve profits or raise efficiency, which often became a target for attacks in a legislative audit of the government.
But the government does not pay heed to such concerns. After the CEO post at the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation became vacant, a former DP lawmaker and aide to Moon’s campaign applied to serve as its head. For the vacant seat of the head of the Korea Racing Authority, a profitable entity from horse racing, another former DP legislator applied.
Moon failed to keep a promise to end parachute appointments for public corporations after coming into office in 2017. We hope he keeps that promise before his term expires in May 2022. Even if he places politicians in the seats, he must listen to experts’ advice to toughen the requirements for such positions.