The Moon Jae-in administration is showing signs of repeating the bad practice of following a spoils system by appointing political supporters as heads of public entities.
The replacement of chiefs is expected at many public and private organizations that are exposed to government influence. Incumbent chief executives who were appointed during the previous government may feel out of place and be pressured to leave their posts.
The Moon administration must put an end to the deplorable practice, which has recurred every time there has been a change in administration.
The newly appointed chairman of the National Pension Service, Kim Sung-joo, is a former lawmaker who worked for Moon during his campaign and later became part of the president’s policy advisory panel after his election.
His pension-related experience is limited to his work as a member of the public health and welfare committee in the last parliament. This lack of experience in managing the 600 trillion won ($536.8 billion) retirement savings for the people is disturbing.
Controversy also arose when Kim Jo-won, a former high-ranking official of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, became president of Korea Aerospace Industries, as his career had nothing to do with the defense industry.
Moon’s personnel principles of fairness and transparency were questioned over the appointments of “pro-government” individuals to a broadcasting authority. The move prompted the largest opposition party boycott of a parliamentary audit of the government.
Kim In-ho tendered his resignation last month as chairman and CEO of the Korea International Trade Association, four months before completing his term in office. At the time, he criticized the government over its “unexplained advice.”
Late last month, the government declared war on corrupt employment at public organizations. It vowed to enlist whistleblowers, investigate all allegations about hiring irregularities and take severe disciplinary actions regardless of rank. The probe will target all public institutions, provincial public enterprises and private organizations related to public service.
Revelations related to employment corruption at Kangwon Land Corp., the operator of Korea’s only casino for Koreans, and the Financial Supervisory Service show how rampant and widespread hiring irregularities have been at public organizations.
Most new employees recruited by Kangwon Land between 2012 and 2013 were found to have been hired at the requests of influential people. Recruitment irregularities were not unusual at the state-run casino operator, which is under investigation by the prosecution.
Meanwhile, the FSS was found to have changed evaluation standards arbitrarily to hire an applicant at the request of an influential figure.
Positions at public corporations are envied by young job seekers for their high wages and generous employee benefits. The unfair recruitment of new employees is a bad practice that should be rooted out.
The punishment of individual executives or employees over wrongdoings is not enough to eradicate corruption.
Hiring scandals stem from the practice of rewarding campaign officials with public entity jobs.
It is doubtful whether the heads of public corporations appointed as political rewards would be able to refuse a powerful figure’s request to recruit certain applicants.
Hiring irregularities are also so furtively committed that they are hard to find. As the saying goes: As is the king, so are the people.
Corruption related to employment at public organizations will begin to die out if uncontroversial figures are appointed instead.
If a political supporter is rewarded with the job of running a public institution, it is hard to expect his or her attachment to the organization, and the new head is likely to be self-serving while keeping an eye out for the next move after serving there.
In light of the circumstances, employee morale and trust in people in public service cannot but fall. Projects pushed by public corporations may change course under new chief executives.
Rewarding political supporters with jobs at public corporations is foul play. It is no more than the act of replacing old evils with new evils.
Now that six months have passed since the Moon administration was launched, the lack of vetting time is no longer an acceptable excuse.
Appointing competent figures with related careers and guaranteeing their terms in office are steps toward the elimination of a spoils system.