Diversity is key

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Diversity is key

President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol is expected to announce his appointments for major posts for the incoming administration as early as next week. After the nomination on Sunday of former prime minister Han Duck-soo as prime minister for his government, Yoon is reportedly accelerating appointments ahead of the start of his administration on May 10 in consideration of confirmation schedules. According to Rep. Kim Eun-hye, the spokesperson for his transition committee, Yoon prioritizes competence, above all, so that top government officials can win the trust of the public, which will help Yoon unify the sharply divided country after the March 9 election. Yoon has repeatedly emphasized that he will not take into account gender and regional factors as in the past.

As seen in the repeated real estate fiascoes in the Moon Jae-in administration, competence will certainly matter most for the new administration. However, a list of the names of candidates for top government positions raises concerns about apparent partiality of his appointments. For instance, 70 percent of more than 20 candidates for ministers handling economy, security and social affairs graduated from Seoul National University, the president-elect’s alma mater. Several of them also graduated from the College of Law at SNU, as Yoon did. Graduates from universities in non-capital areas can hardly be found.

Most of the candidates are men in their 60s. Meanwhile, women are nearly non-existent in the group of candidates for major positions, except for one or two ministries. Somehow it could be inevitable given Yoon’s tendency to prioritize experience and ability over the quota. Nevertheless, political pundits criticize the president-elect for trying to fill the new administration with a group of people from a certain university.

If Yoon pushes forward his appointments this way, it could seriously hurt the primary value of diversity in the government. Age can not be a hurdle in carrying out public jobs, as effectively suggested in the private sector which has a countless number of CEOs in their 40s. In Europe and other advanced countries, prime ministers in their 30s are nothing new. Considering the sharp divisions between generations and genders exposed in the last presidential election, the new government must strike a balance so as to reach a consensus on various issues of contention.

In the past, public perception about the composition of early cabinet members of any administration played a key role in determining their success or failure later. The conservative Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations and the liberal Moon Jae-in administration are no exception. We hope the president-elect values diversity in gender and age for his administration.
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