Published : 2013-02-21 19:26
Updated : 2013-02-21 19:26
In her victory speech one day after the Dec. 19 vote, President-elect Park Geun-hye pledged to achieve national reconciliation by gathering opinions from across the political spectrum and appointing people from across the nation.
She declared that she would put an end to past discriminatory practices in personnel management by selecting people based on talent. But she also said she would pursue regional, generational and gender balance.
Coming from a politician who has valued promises more than anything else, the pledge gained credibility and boosted expectations for fair and balanced personnel appointments under the incoming government.
Yet the lineup of the Cabinet and the presidential office unveiled by her is disappointing, to say the least. In recruiting high-ranking officials, three criteria are important: fairness, representativeness and professionalism.
The appointments Park has so far fallen short of expectations in terms of fairness and representativeness. We understand the constraints Park faces. Many qualified candidates have reportedly turned down her job offers due to their fear of being pilloried at parliamentary hearings.
Yet she cannot avoid responsibility for the uninspiring and biased selection of people for top government posts.
The most conspicuous thing about the lineup is the underrepresentation of women. Of the 18 Cabinet positions, only two were allocated to women, with one of the two being the post of minster of gender equality and family, a job that is reserved for women.
Gender balance was completely ignored in filling posts in the presidential office: None of the 12 senior posts were given to women. No wonder women’s organizations expressed deep disappointment over Park’s personnel picks.
In her campaign manifesto, Park promised to increase the presence of women in the Cabinet and government agencies as part of a project to foster 100,000 female leaders and specialists.
Park’s election as the nation’s first woman president has many domestic corporations scrambling to increase the presence of women in their boardrooms. A larger presence of women in the Cabinet and Cheong Wa Dae would have further spurred such a shift in the corporate world.
Another salient aspect is the sudden rise of graduates of Sungkyunkwan University. Prime Minister nominee Chung Hong-won and Park’s first chief of staff, Huh Tae-yeol, graduated from the university’s law department in the same year.
Furthermore, Hwang Kyo-ahn, Park’s nominee to head the Ministry of Justice, and Kwak Sang-do, who was appointed senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, also graduated from the university’s law department.
The 12 senior presidential secretaries include three more SKKU graduates ― Yoo Min-bong in charge of state affairs planning, Lee Nam-gi for public relations and Mo Chul-min for education and cultural affairs.
The large presence of SKKU graduates reminds us of the overrepresentation of graduates of Korea University in the inaugural Cabinet of the Lee Myung-bak government.
Park, a graduate of Sogang University, has no connections with SKKU. So cronyism may not be the main factor behind the rise of SKKU graduates. But the fact that seven of the administration’s most powerful figures are from the same university cannot be dismissed as a freak coincidence.
The existence of a powerful group of officials connected through school ties is not a good sign, as it could undermine the system of checks and balances among administration agencies.
Park’s picks for the Cabinet and Cheong Wa Dae also dampened expectations among people in the Honam region, the bastion of the main opposition Democratic United Party.
In the Cabinet, the region was represented by a mere two nominees, a share falling short of even its proportion in the nation’s population. This belies Park’s promise to embrace people who voted against her.
But Park still has the chance to deliver on her pledges as many important public posts remain to be filled. She will soon appoint the heads of such powerful agencies as the Board of Audit and Inspection, the Fair Trade Commission and the Financial Supervisory Commission.
Other agencies with immense power that wait for leadership change include the National Intelligence Service, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, the National Police Headquarters and the National Tax Service.
For these posts, Park would do well to pick people based on the spirit of national reconciliation. While searching for talented people, she needs to strike a balance between men and women, between young and old, and among different regions.