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More Posco drama

June 22,2018
The appointment of the next chairman of Korea’s steel giant Posco is full of controversy. Democratic Party floor-leader Hong Yong-pyo and others from the ruling party claimed Kwon Oh-joon, who offered to resign in April with two years left in his second term, was exercising his influence over former and incumbent executives in choosing his replacement at the steelmaker.

The accusation raises suspicion over the ruling party getting involved in the appointment process despite its pledge to separate politics from the management affairs of a privatized entity. Left-wing minority Justice Party spokesperson Choo Hye-sun called for an open process to prevent collusion between the top steelmaker and public officials.

The recruitment of a new Posco chair has always brought rumors, slander and speculation. That is no different even with a progressive government. On top of a power struggle between those loyal to outgoing and former chairmen, names of bureaucratic and political heavyweights are being floated to confound the race. Posco and KT have long been privatized, and yet they undergo this ritual every time a new government comes into office.

Politicians have reason to question the opaque nature of appointing a new chair at Posco. Above all, a new face is needed to root out the outdated corporate culture from years of political influence. President Moon Jae-in vowed hands-off in appointments in privatized entities. But comments from ruling party heavyweights, nonetheless, pose intimidating political pressure. The government must keep political influence at bay and carefully watch the process. It can take action upon evident signs of irregularities.

Posco also must be clear in the process. It must specify the guidelines in electing its new chair and share the procedures. It can finally do away with its poor reputation of being a trophy seat for politicians by electing an unquestionably apt and reform-minded CEO through a transparent process.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 21, Page 30