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(News Focus) Park faces dilemma over covert personnel selections
By Lee Haye-ah
SEOUL, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- The abrupt withdrawal of President-elect Park Geun-hye's prime minister nominee has raised the question of whether Park can afford to insist on her covert style of personnel selections despite criticism from within and outside her party.

   Tuesday's voluntary resignation of Kim Yong-joon, the nominee who also heads Park's transition committee, came only five days after he was tapped to become Park's first prime minister.

   Snowballing allegations of property speculation and draft dodging by his two sons eventually forced Kim to step down, dealing a blow to the image of the incoming administration even before its launch.

  


It was the first time that the first prime minister nominee of a new government has resigned.

   Critics put much of the blame on Park's trademark style of choosing personnel on her own. Little is known about who helps her in the process or the steps they undertake to vet potential candidates.

   An official of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae recently told Yonhap News Agency on condition of anonymity that the office had not received any requests for relevant data or documents in the vetting process.

   Along with the growing number of allegations against Kim, doubts began to spread as to whether Park had conducted even the basic amount of screening.

   Some said she may have considered him fit for the job out of the belief that he had passed a parliamentary confirmation hearing to become Constitutional Court chief in 1994. The confirmation hearing system for the top court, however, wasn't introduced until 2000.

   Park's insistence on secrecy derives largely from her aversion to unfinished ideas being leaked to the media and causing what she has called "confusion" to the public.

   However, Park may now have to embrace a more open and transparent selection style if she is to avoid further embarrassment, experts said.

   "It's important that President-elect Park realizes that confidentiality is not everything," said Lim Suhng-bin, a public administration professor at Seoul's Myongji University. "There needs to be a screening system based on scientific, fair and objective selection criteria, rather than Park's own vetting."

   Others called for closer cooperation with the outgoing Lee Myung-bak administration.

   "Kim's nomination revealed that (Park) was unable to detect even the most basic (problems)," said Kim Hyung-joon, a political science professor at Myongji University. "There's no choice but to request the help of Cheong Wa Dae's vetting system by recognizing that confidentiality and vetting are two separate issues."

   However, as a local newspaper pointed out, getting help from Cheong Wa Dae could be awkward, if not difficult, after Park openly voiced opposition to Lee's decision Tuesday to grant special pardons to some of his close associates who are in jail on bribery charges.

   Moreover, Park may have no intention to change her style of appointments because of the success she has enjoyed in many of her choices and decisions so far, according to officials close to her.
"From last year's presidential campaign to the implementation of her campaign pledges after the election, it has turned out that the president-elect made the right decisions, so few people around her are able to make other suggestions," said a transition team official, asking that he not be identified.

   Lee Chang-won, a public administration professor at Seoul's Hansung University, acknowledged that Park's method of choosing personnel from her pool of contacts worked when she was the leader of the ruling Saenuri Party.

   "But (she) must not think that such a method will also serve the purposes of a president," he said. "Now, she must combine her ideas with the government's vetting system in order to resolve the problems that have emerged in the appointment process."

   On Wednesday, ruling party lawmakers called in unison for Park to make personnel selections in a more open and transparent manner.

   "It is important to keep principles, but what is more important is to correct wrong principles," Rep. Kim Young-woo said. "It is a matter of course that candidates are vetted and President-elect Park should seek help from the current government's vetting system."

   hague@yna.co.kr
(END)
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