Unconventional promotionWI MUN-HEE
The author is a national news team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Unusual appointments have been made for the police leadership. The precedent of appointing the next police chief among superintendent generals first and making other appointments after was broken. Under the Police Officials Act, the police commissioner should be appointed among the superintendent generals, who are just one rank below. On May 24, the Yoon Suk-yeol administration promoted five senior officers to the post of superintendent generals 14 days after the launch of his government. There would be no reason to promote them first if one of them is not going to be the next police chief.
This kind of unconventional promotion happened before, in the prosecution, five years ago. During the Moon Jae-in administration, Yoon Suk-yeol, then a prosecutor at the Daejeon High Prosecutors’ Office, was unexpectedly promoted to head the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. Anyone could see that Moon wanted to appoint Yoon to the mighty post for political reasons.
Prosecutor Yoon was originally considered the first prosecutor general in the Moon Jae-in administration. But it would have been a burden for the administration to directly appoint a prosecutor as chief prosecutor by skipping all the ranks. But two years later, Yoon was appointed as the second prosecutor general in the Moon administration. It is also the first case in which a senior prosecutor becomes prosecutor general without serving as head of a high prosecutor’s office. Since the revision of the Prosecution Act in 1988 to introduce the tenure system, all prosecutor generals have been appointed among heads of high prosecutors’ offices. Therefore, everyone assumes Yoon would know the implication of the irregular police promotion better than anyone.
The question is which of the five superintendent generals will be appointed as the next police chief. Here, the repertoire of the past administrations — appointments based on school, regional and work backgrounds — will likely be repeated. According to a person familiar with the appointment practice of the presidential office, the candidates who are included in the final pool by the nomination committee have similar qualifications and skills. So, what catches the committee’s attention is their academic, regional and work relationship with the president, as it can give a strong belief that the candidate is on “our side.” Such relationship-based appointments lead to controversy over and over.
Whether the next police commissioner is appointed among those five or not, it is still uncomfortable. If one is really appointed as police chief, the president is trying to tame the police leadership. If not, he is pressuring the police organization. Let’s see whether Yoon’s precedent in the prosecution will be repeated in the police.