Yoon’s appointments at a crossroads of fairnessHEO JIN
The author is a political team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
It is easy to talk about fairness, but it is hard to keep. It is also hard to define, which may be why people have different standards. Some people think gender quotas are the opposite of fairness while others consider it the beginning of fairness.
“Everyone said, ‘Is Yoon Suk-yeol getting married? We have to see it with our own eyes.’ So all of the Seoul National University law school classmates went to the wedding,” said Lee Mee-hyon, a professor at Yonsei University Law School, on a television program about the president-elect as a college classmate on March 10.
About a month later, on April 15, she was appointed as an inspector at the Board of Audit and Inspection, a vice ministerial-level position.
“We’ve been friends for 40 years. I still remember how he was so generous,” former head of the Kyungpook National University Hospital Chung Ho-young said of Yoon’s character in an interview with a local newspaper in the Yeongnam region on March 11. On April 10, Chung was nominated for health and welfare minister in the next administration.
Lately, the list of appointments by Yoon include many of Yoon’s personal friends. Lee Mee-hyon has been friends with Yoon for 43 years. Though Yoon’s transition team denied it, Chung is called a “40-year friend of Yoon.” Unification minister nominee Kwon Young-se has been a friend for 43 years, and interior minister candidate Lee Sang-min for 39 years. Former Vice Foreign Minister Kim Sung-han has been named as the National Security Advisor. (As Kim went to Daewang Elementary School with Yoon, they’ve been friends for 50 years.) As Justice minister nominee Han Dong-hoon first worked with Yoon in 2004, their relationship is shorter — 18 years.
Is the nomination of Yoon’s friends fair? As Yoon claimed that “competency” and “expertise” were the primary criteria for the nomination, fairness shouldn’t be an issue even if he did select his friends. As they graduated from top colleges, passed the bar exam or served in high positions, the nominees have good qualifications besides being Yoon’s friends.
But a leader appointing so many personal friends is unprecedented since the 1987 democratization. Korean political culture does not condone a president’s friends being promoted to highest positions. When President Moon Jae-in’s colleagues from the same schools became CEOs of public corporations, politicians attacked them for being “parachuted.”
If Yoon’s appointments turn out to be successful, Yoon’s nominations would prove fair. If not, he was just prioritizing his friends. Yoon’s crony appointments are at a crossroads of fairness.