Some things never change

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Some things never change

President Moon Jae-in is rushing through parachute appointments in his final days in office. President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol expressed concern about a rush of appointments to public corporations and asked the government to “discuss” essential appointments with his transition team, according to Yoon’s spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye.

On March 10, Lim Chan-ki, a former official at the secretariat of civil affairs at the presidential office, was named a permanent auditor to Korea Gas Safety Corporation. Lim had worked as a strategist at the ruling Democratic Party (DP). Kim Myung-soo, who was appointed as a standing auditor at Korea Southern Power Company, was a secretary to Kim Hae-young, former senior lawmaker of the DP. The sudden rush of appointments of former DP members to key positions at public institutions doesn’t make sense.

Yet the Blue House claims that the appointment authority lies with the president until his last day in office on May 9, which suggests the president won’t be deterred. The move goes against the usual tradition of leaving appointments to the incoming president during the transition period.

Despite Moon’s pledge not to repeat the tradition of rewarding seats at public enterprises, many of the senior appointments at economically important public entities were made without any consideration of the expertise and background of their heads. Instead, the choices of past presidents were forced out. A former environment minister and presidential secretary was even found guilty of abusing her power to push out a number of senior officials at public corporations appointed by the former conservative administration.

Moon would have found it very difficult to work with figures seated by the past government. Yet he has appointed his own former presidential secretaries and DP lawmakers to public enterprises. Even a former secretary under President Roh Moo-hyun criticized the move.

“It is very inappropriate for the Blue House to appoint so many CEOs of public entities before the end of the presidential term,” he said.

The practice of rewarding unqualified politicians, campaigners, or loyalists with senior public jobs must stop. The government should benchmark the U.S. Plum Book, which discloses the title, salary and term of government employees, including the staff of public enterprises, to help raise transparency in the public-sector payroll. Since Yoon became a politician just nine months ago, he ought to have less people to repay. He is in the best position to end this embarrassing tradition of appointing people close to the president to top posts at public entities in the days before the president leaves office.
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