Korea’s past administrations were always criticized for appointing government officials based on campaign aides’ contributions to election victories rather than on any real capabilities. Under the presidential system, we can hardly find fault with a new president recruiting loyalists in the initial stage of new governments. But if such recruitments are still being made at the end of a president’s term, it’s a different matter. Needless to say, such recruitments can restrict not only a next president’s authority over human resources management but also his jurisdiction in running the government. That’s why past administrations refrained from reshuffling government officials at the end of their terms.
In a bizarre way, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced recruitments last week of new faces for major posts in foreign missions ahead of the March 9 presidential election. Given the two-to-three-month period needed to get agrément from foreign governments, we cannot but ask why the government rushed to appoint heads of its embassies overseas even before a new transition committee is set up by a next president.
In the past, our ambassadors tendered their resignations while on duty if a new government was launched. If the Moon Jae-in administration pushes these strange appointments, new ambassadors will have to submit their resignations shortly after they arrive in foreign countries.
In particular, we wonder why Moon appointed Ahn Il-hwan — his former senior secretary for economic affairs at the Blue House who should take responsibility for the supply crunch of diesel exhaust fluids late last year — as ambassador to the OECD. Does that mean that Ahn’s health dramatically recovered after his resignation for health reasons?
Such appointments will follow in other ministries, agencies and public corporations. Justice Minister Park Beom-kye plans to change high-level prosecutors soon, which raises concerns that the liberal administration will seat pro-government prosecutors in major posts. The ministry usually refrains from reshuffle at the end of administrations. The Korea Airports Corporation and the Korea Racing Authority are no exception. In the past, head posts of such public entities were replaced by acting CEOs at the end of presidential terms until the next government launched.
The Blue House must stop appointing people to big posts. With less than two months to go before the presidential election, it must do its best to fairly manage the election and prepare for a next administration to start smoothly.