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Open competition for state-run exec posts

Posted September. 26, 2012 06:30,   


The open competition for the 19th secretary general of the Korean National Commission for UNESCO was stopped Monday. After The Dong-A Ilbo ran a story that the process was just a show because the government has decided on a candidate for the position, the jury rejected the screening process and certain applicants dropped out. A juror said, “The Education, Science and Technology Ministry is forcing an election favorite to give up allowing a person whom it wants to get the position.”

Dong-A said in an article early this month that the open competition system for the CEOs of state-run companies is effectively for show only, and this is a deception against the people. The report asked the presidential office whether an internally designated person was nominated to head the National Pension Service, whose incumbent chief Jeon Gwang-woo retires in December, and whether it has the will to properly hold a competition for the position over the next few months before this administration ends. Nonetheless, the government tried to send its person to UNESCO while officially saying it is looking for someone to fill the post. If the government wanted Deputy Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Min Dong-seok for the position, it should have named him officially. Trying to get him in by using a fake process is deceiving the people.

The open competition for the heads of state-run companies was introduced under the name “recommendation” of the Finance Ministry under the Kim Dae-jung administration in 1999. The succeeding Roh administration changed the name to an open competition, saying, “We’ll root out the practice of appointments from the top.” The problem was, the government had an internal nominee but held the open competition anyway. Early in its term, the incumbent Lee Myung-bak administration expanded the open competition system to 90 companies, including Korea Housing & Land Corp., Korea Electric Power Corp. and the National Pension Service, but those selected by the presidential office became the heads of those companies.

As a practice ridden with expediency and hypocrisy takes root, government officials and applicants for the positions take the crooked system for granted. Rather, they say nominations are more realistic because the nominated person can be blamed for making the wrong decisions. An open competition system done fairly, however, is a step in the right direction for most state-run companies, which have no political tendencies.

The open competition process failed to take root because those in power think that the positions are the spoils of election victory. President Lee Myung-bak and Education Minister Lee Ju-ho should decide either on nominations or a fair open competition system. What decision will presidential candidates Park Geun-hye, Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo make on the system? Those who want to be president should announce what they have in mind to appeal to voters.