+ A

Ending the appointments fiasco

June 07,2017
The Moon Jae-in administration is adrift after troubles appointing top officials. A nominee for the deputy chief of the National Security Office was replaced after 12 days and minister of foreign affairs nominee Kang Kyung-wha may face a similar fate. Such cases are plenty. Nominations of a former Navy chief of staff as defense minister and a former education superintendent as education minister are also delayed. If the appointment fiasco continues, the new government may quickly lose momentum.

All the problems boil down to the way the new president wants to place his favorites into top positions. The Blue House says President Moon each time notifies his civil affairs secretary of a designee he wants to name as head of a ministry. Under such circumstances, aides to the secretary cannot apply strict standards to any people nominated by the president. Moon’s surprising appointments also help fuel the trouble with personnel affairs.

The president must not flex his muscles in the appointment process. In the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the president’s chief of staff and senior secretaries determined nominees through consensus after weighing his personnel affairs secretary’s recommendations and his civil affairs secretary’s screening of them. The government also entrusted the appointments of ministers to the head of personnel affairs, who had not been indebted to the government. As he had full authority, he was able to avoid behind-the-scene appointments. If Moon can revive such a transparent appointment culture, many of those problems will disappear.

The problem also comes from the lack of manpower in the Office of Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs. Its chief Cho Kuk has no experience of investigation or inspection (he was a law professor.) Its civil discipline officer was appointed only two weeks ago. Many practical-level examiners at the presidential office also were excluded from the beginning simply because they had served in the Park Geun-hye administration. The remaining ten staff cannot thoroughly conduct a successful scrutiny. The Blue House must put an effective screening system back on track.

The new government must thoroughly weigh the genuine qualifications of nominees for top positions. If the government is really proud of its morality, it must apply even stricter standards to them. Opposition parties are still bent on attacking nominees for their lack of ethics without trying to verify their practical qualifications. Ruling and opposition parties must overcome the unprecedented crisis facing the nation. Appointing top officials is the first step.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 7, Page 30