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Never-ending appointments

Oct 29,2019
Nearly half of executive seats at public corporations have been filled by figures related to the president, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the government. According to a study by opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) Rep. Choo Kyung-ho, nearly half of executives appointed or nominated by Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Hong Nam-ki came from Moon Jae-in’s presidential campaign, the DP or progressive groups. Hong had named or recommended 55 out of 113 non-permanent board members and auditors at public companies under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance from Dec. 11 to last month. Some of them had no experience or expertise in the field.

The newest board member to Korea Housing & Urban Guarantee was a district head representing the DP in Busan, and the latest Korea Gas auditor was also picked from a North Jeolla division of the ruling party. When counting the recruitment under the first Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon, the share from the ruling camp in executive posts at economy-related institutions reaches 56.2 percent.

In another study by website CEO Score on 1,031 executives at public corporations seated from late 2017 to last month, the number of politicians at executive posts rose to 18 from eight and those at auditing posts to 32 from 24. The government has repeated the tradition of rewarding public executive posts to figures who had helped President Moon’s campaign.

Moon has vowed “fairness” as a top state priority after the controversy over former Justice Minister Cho Kuk. Fairness should start from appointments. People should be appointed on their merit and performance, not loyalty to the president. Public institutions must serve the public, not the party. They must be run and overseen by people with eyes on public well-being.

The heads of state and semi-public institutions are named by the president or ministers, and the permanent board members are appointed by heads of public corporations. Prime Minister Hong, who also serves as the minister of strategy and finance, also has the right to name or recommend outside board members and auditors for public corporations. But the finance minister usually takes orders from the presidential office in naming the outside board and auditors. It is not a coincidence that losses have ballooned at public institutions under the Moon administration.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 28, Page 34