President Park Geun-hye is pushing ahead with the remaining appointments of her key aides and high-level officials this week but ambiguity in the selection standards is once again drawing heat from critics.
On Tuesday, Cheong Wa Dae released the names of Park’s 40 secretaries. They included Kim Hyoung-zhin, former director general at the foreign ministry’s North American affairs bureau, for foreign affairs; politics professor Hong Yong-pyo of Hanyang University for unification; and senior defense ministry official Youn Je-uk for defense.
The presidential office said that new vice ministers would be announced on Wednesday and heads of key government agencies on Thursday. At her first Cabinet meeting on Monday, Park also indicated a wide-ranging personnel reshuffle would be made in public corporations and organizations.
With her controversial Defense Minister-nominee Kim Byung-kwan reaffirming his wish to serve in the post at an impromptu press conference Tuesday despite vehement opposition over his past ethical misdeeds, Park’s overall personnel appointment style is once again being put under scrutiny.
“Changing the personnel in time for a new government is not an issue that deserves criticism as it is only natural. However, problem occurs if the selection veers from indispensable standards such as the candidates sharing the same state or political philosophy and proving sufficient capacity,” said Hong Hyung-shil, president of Hangil Research.
At the center of the debate are Park’s remarks during the Cabinet meeting when she said, “Please see to it that the figures who share (my) state philosophy are named to the posts in ministries’ affiliate organizations and public bodies that will see major personnel reshuffles.”
There are about 295 public organizations in the country according to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.
Some pointed to the ambiguity of Park’s wording of “state philosophy,” saying that such vagueness could fall short of garnering public support and incur stronger opposition.
“While it would be difficult to work with anyone that does not share the same state philosophy, it is hoped that it is not used as a mere excuse to make favor-based personnel appointments as was done incessantly in past governments,” said the main opposition Democratic United Party’s chief policymaker Byun Jae-ill.
Park has been criticized since the operation of the transition committee for filling her presidential office with so-called pro-Park members who had been loyal to her.
Her choices for such high positions as senior secretaries and ministers were often simply listed off at a press briefing without detailed background and the reason for the selection.
Park’s failure to foster public understanding of her principles beyond broad political buzz words has led to her decisions being portrayed as unexpected or blindsiding, resulting in further confusion that she so wishes to avoid, observers said.
“What is stifling is that Park seems to be the only person that knows what her philosophy is,” Hong Hyung-shik said.
Park, for instance, claims to uphold capitalism by supporting the market economy and fair competition. But she also suggests wider opportunities for those who have “fallen behind” in such competition when it comes to non-economic fields such as welfare.
“While this is a clearly different stance from her predecessor, there is not enough structural explanation of her theory, which eventually could result in no one other than herself really amply understanding what it is,” Hong explained.
This then has led to her aides relying solely on her comments for pending issues, and has forced Park to be self-reliant in picking every member of her administration, Hong said.
The opposition members revisited Park’s earlier comments made after her election win last year, saying she should follow through on her words.
Park had said, “I have been hearing how people with no expertise are being named to public corporations and organizations. It is a wrongful act that places the burden on the people and the next government.”
Cheong Wa Dae, meanwhile, tried to quell such concerns.
“The principle of Park Geun-hye government’s personnel appointment is that there are no so-called ‘parachute-style’ appointments as confidence and expertise are prioritized,” presidential spokeswoman Kim Haing said.
By Lee Joo-hee (email@example.com