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Corrupt hiring riles opposition

Parties want official probe but Democratic Party says no need
Oct 23,2018
Opposition parties are demanding a parliamentary probe into the alleged corrupt hiring practices at public corporations.

“Seoul Metro’s alleged corrupt hiring practices involving relatives of employees have shed light on other corrupt recruitment practices at public corporations,” said a statement by floor leaders of the opposition Liberty Korea Party, Bareunmirae Party and the Party for Democracy and Peace released Monday. “These revelations have posed a serious question about equality and trust in this society.”

Seoul Metro is a public company run by the Seoul city government in charge of subway lines No. 1 through 8.

The three parties quoted the central government’s announcement last year of its plan to upgrade the public sector’s contract workers to permanent payrolls and said that some public corporations’ employees “have manipulated this information to their advantage.”

“An all-out parliamentary probe into public corporations is needed to prevent similar practices,” it said. “We hope that the Democratic Party and the Justice Party will stand with us in this effort.”

The allegations of unfair hiring practices at public corporations began with a JoongAng Ilbo exclusive report on Oct. 16. The paper obtained information from the office of Liberty Korea Party (LKP) Rep. You Min-bong on how at least 108 out of 1,285 contract workers upgraded to the permanent payroll in March at Seoul Metro had relatives working at the company before they applied.

This sparked suspicions that the relatives of the 108 advised them to apply for contract positions expecting they will be put on the permanent payroll soon. Recruitment for contract positions at the company is a simple three-step process compared to the five-step process including written tests and personality evaluations for salaried positions.

Additional audit records on Seoul Metro have since surfaced, suggesting there may be hundreds more involved. Seoul Metro is a popular choice for prospective job applicants who want to work at public corporations: there were 555 openings for full-time positions at Seoul Metro this year and a total of 30,340 people applied.

Audit records suggesting possible hiring malpractices at other public corporations including the Incheon International Airport and Korea Land and Geospatial Informatix Corporation surfaced in an ongoing annual National Assembly audit.

“The parliamentary probe can only be launched with the agreement of the Democratic Party,” the Party for Democracy and Peace floor leader Chang Byoung-wan told reporters Monday at the National Assembly. “I am sure the party will agree to launching the probe.”

In fact, the ruling Democratic Party floor leader Hong Young-pyo disagreed.

“The Seoul Metropolitan Government has already submitted a request to the Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea for an inspection and this should reveal the facts of the matter,” Hong said in a party meeting Monday. “Of course we must do away with corrupt hiring practices in our society. But we must stay away from pointing fingers at rumors until the facts are sorted out.”

“Relying on an inspection of the Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea is simply a scheme to stall for time,” said LKP floor leader Kim Sung-tae in a party meeting Monday.

“The Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea has a duty to inspect the case, and the National Assembly also has its duty [to investigate the matter],” said Bareunmirae Party floor leader Kim Kwan-young.

The alleged hiring malpractices at public corporations, meanwhile, are drawing public ire, especially from prospective applicants and their parents.

“My child has spent the last three years preparing for tests for jobs at public corporations, conglomerates and smaller companies,” wrote a user in a petition to the Blue House on Sunday.

“My child applied for a job at Seoul Metro last October but it didn’t work out. Now that we learned about the problems there, the company must dismiss the relatives who were hired unfairly and open up new positions.”

“Every time my job application to a public corporation was rejected I was very hard on myself for the failure,” a 28-year-old resident of Seoul surnamed Kim told the JoongAng Ilbo. “The recent revelations of alleged hiring malpractice made me wonder if it all didn’t work out because I don’t have family connections in the public companies.”

Experts said the issue is a hot potato because it concerns employment, and Korea’s job situation is poor.

According to Statistics Korea, the number of new hires has been falling sharply since February. In July, only 5,000 more new jobs were created, while in August, the number fell to 3,000, a stark contrast with the average of 300,000 jobs created every month last year. The August figure was the worst since January 2010.

“The allegation regarding hiring malpractice stirs up public anger because it concerns employment, which is the greatest topic of interest for young adults,” said Seol Dong-hoon, a professor of sociology at Chonbuk National University in Jeonju, North Jeolla. “They are angry because the allegations suggest unequal employment opportunities.”

BY ESTHER CHUNG, SUNG JI-WON AND KIM DA-YOUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]