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Get out your parachutes

Nov 09,2017
Worries about the Moon Jae-in administration repeating the bad practices of the past — so-called “parachute appointments” in the public sector — are growing. The government tries to replace not only heads of public corporations but also CEOs of non-governmental organizations. The positions are given to powerful former civil servants or politically connected people, who bring political pressure to the companies.

There was a rumor Wednesday that the Moon administration is preparing to force out the chairman and CEO of the Korea Racing Authority, Lee Yang-ho, who has been serving as head of the horse-racing entity for less than a year, to fill the position with Kim Nag-soon, a former lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Party and aide in Moon’s campaign.

This is probably just the start. The heads of 334 government-run agencies are nervous about their jobs, particularly if they were appointed by the conservative Park Geun-hye administration.

After the parachute party gets into full swing, a particular group of people flocks to those in power. They will include politicians who worked for Moon’s election campaign and bureaucrats who were shunned by the previous government. For instance, Kim Sung-ju, a former legislator and aide in Moon’s campaign, was appointed chief of the National Pension Service. Even with a career as a senior member of the Health and Welfare Committee of the National Assembly, many people are criticizing his lack of expertise to lead an institution with assets of 600 trillion won ($538 billion).

The trend stretches to private financial institutions. Kim In-ho, former chairman and CEO of the Korea International Trade Association, had to step down due to government pressure while a former head of the Financial Supervisory Service in the Roh Moo-hyun administration has made a surprising comeback as head of the General Insurance Association of Korea after ten years.

Needless to say, parachute appointments are a part of the so-called “past ills” the Moon administration vowed to root out. Such practices not only contribute to lax operation of those organizations but critically hurt the overall efficiency of our economy.

The government must ensure that any heads of corporations under the jurisdiction of the administration finish their terms if their ability to run their corporations was proven. The Moon administration must put an end to the resilient practice of parachute appointments once and for all.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 9, Page 30