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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Feb. 11)

Editorials from Korean dailies 09:04 February 11, 2021

New 'blacklist' scandal
Time to overhaul executive reshuffle systems in public organizations

A Seoul court convicted a former environment minister and a former presidential aide of abuse of power Tuesday. The Seoul Central District Court sentenced former Environment Minister Kim Eun-kyung to two-and-a-half years in prison for ousting state-run company executives affiliated with her ministry and replacing them with loyalists of President Moon Jae-in. The court ordered Kim, who had stood trial without detention, to be jailed immediately.

Shin Mi-sook, former presidential secretary for personnel affairs, received a suspended prison sentence of one-and-a-half years for her involvement in what was dubbed a new "blacklist" scandal. The prosecution indicted Kim and Shin in April 2019 on charges of drawing up a blacklist of executives appointed by the former Park Geun-hye administration and forcing 15 of them to step down. Among them, 13 resigned due to the pressure.

The verdict comes as a surprise because the defendants received jail sentences over personnel affairs conducted customarily in public organizations. The court lambasted Kim for breaching the law, stating that she had asked the executives to submit their resignations, ordered an inspection of those who refused to resign and unduly meddled in the selection of new executives. Shin was also criticized for implanting distrust among civil servants.

The case came to light in December 2018 when Kim Tae-woo, a former member of the Cheong Wa Dae inspection team, blew the whistle on the existence of a blacklist at the environment ministry. Throughout the trial, the former minister argued that political purges were inevitable to implement environmental policies of the new administration and these practices were customary in previous governments.

But the court rejected Kim's argument, stating, "It is an illegal act that must be uprooted." Unsurprisingly, "parachute appointments" have remained intact in this administration, and there is an urgent need to overhaul executive reshuffle policies at public organizations. The prosecution should also look into the possibility of blacklists in other government agencies.

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