Stop biased appointments for top posts

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Stop biased appointments for top posts

After taking office on March 10, President Yoon Suk-yeol pledged to push for reforms in education, labor and pensions. To succeed in the three major reforms, Yoon must appoint figures best qualified for the crusade. But his appointments for the National Education Commission (NEC), which launches on Tuesday, make us wonder if the public can agree on his decisions. The nominee for the Economic, Social & Labor Council (ESLC) is also being criticized for his lopsided recruitment.

The education commission has launched since relevant laws were enacted in July last year in the Moon Jae-in administration. The presidential commission will take over some functions of the Ministry of Education to present vision and direction for the education policy of the government. The details include drawing up mid- and long-term plans for education in the areas of school systems, teacher recruitment, college entrance and optimum number of students per class. Legally, the commission is an administrative body for the government, but its head receives minister-level treatment just like in the Anti-corruption & Civil Rights Commission and the Fair Trade Commission.

Due to noises even before the establishment of the NEC, its launch was delayed to September from July. Of a total 21 members of the commission, including its chairman and two standing members on the vice minister-level, 19 have been seated. But the remaining two posts could not be filled due to sharp disagreements among stakeholders, such as the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Association, the Korean Federation of Teachers Unions (KFTU) and the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU).

The NEC aims to set farsighted education policy beyond the boundaries of government and political parties. But ideology-based appointments of commission members by the president and National Assembly ring loud alarms. Lee Bae-yong, the head of the commission, is a professor of history, who was deeply involved in the past administration’s attempt to publish a uniform history textbook for middle and high schools, whereas Chung Dae-hwa, a standing member, is a leftist scholar who publicly criticized the bench for handing down a heavy sentence for the wife of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk.

Kim Moon-soo, former Gyeonggi governor, was reportedly nominated to head the ESLC. The People Power Party welcomes his nomination citing his career in labor and expertise in labor issues as a lawmaker. But controversy lingers over his participation in massive rallies organized by an ultra-rightist religious leader to protest the Moon administration. Could he maintain amicable relations with unions if he is appointed as chairman of the council?

Past surveys show that approval rating for President Yoon has been lowered by his repeated appointment fiascoes. Given his lack of loyal supporters, the president can gain a driving force for the three reforms only when he earns trust from people.
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