Updated June. 27, 2014 04:44
Saenuri Party floor leader Lee Wan-koo said on Wednesday that personal issues in nominees should have a closed-door hearing while a public confirmation hearing is desirable for validating ability, talent, philosophy, and values. He is said to have delivered to President Park Geun-hye that he would discuss this two-prong approach to confirmation hearings with the opposition party. It is true that the first such hearing introduced in 2000 had room for improvement, which trotted out every skeleton in the nominees closets and humiliated them. Yet issues about personal life and ability and talent are not always clearly separable. Some see the opposition party and the media conducting validation prior to a National Assembly confirmation hearing as a public hearing in the broader sense. Withdrawal of former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who had been a strong candidate for the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice not making Secretary of State are similar examples.
If the ideal nominee without flaws are adequately recommended and validated for nomination to a civil service post, it would not be necessary to criticize the confirmation hearing method. In the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service are all mobilized to sufficiently vet the nominees for ethics and other issues in advance, then the nominee is named. This enables the public confirmation hearing to validate the ability to fulfill the job and evidence their policies.
The fact that President Park has decided on Wednesday to install a senior secretary office for personnel issues can be seen as the result of reflection on the need to systematically manage the human resources management processes. With the nomination process veiled and controlled just as the will of The Boss, it is difficult to vet adequately. Rumors that a seven-member committee and that another group of loyal insiders of the Park Geun-hye circle recommended former Prime Minister nominee Moon Chang-keuk owe in part to this secrecy.
Yet doubts remain that establishing the new office alone will revise this way of managing human resources. When a ferry sinks, establishing a government agency for national safety, and when people point out that the presidents monopolizing all the decisions are problematic, installing a deputy prime minister of social affairs indicate too much faith in government agencies. It is a bureaucratic idea. The senior secretary for personnel affairs, which has been established during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, was reduced to secretary for personnel affairs under the Lee Myung-bak administration. Incumbent Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon has doubled as chief presidential human resources manager heading the human resources committee, with assistance from the personnel management team chief (Grade 2 administrative official). However, the human resources committee is hardly fulfilling its function for important personnel management issues for prime minister and ministers, and close aides are executing policies under the order of the president. This has led to criticisms of closed-door and rumors of intervention by secretaries.
President Park does need to listen to unofficial advice from human resources who are respected and reliable. Yet when self-restraint and responsibility are absent, these could backfire. The ultimate solution is to operate the nomination-validation-decision on human resources process as part of the system and take in public sentiment in a wide variety of routes, thereby managing human resources in an open manner.