By Park Si-soo
To soothe negative public sentiment, the state weather agency has decided to recruit a foreign expert, pledging a fat pay package.
The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) said Wednesday it has contacted several renowned weather experts in countries showing a high forecast accuracy including the United States, United Kingdom and Japan since last year.
``We have contacted several international-level scholars since late last year,'' said Kim Seung-bai, KMA vice spokesman. ``But we are still in the early stages, so it's difficult to say who's the strongest candidate.''
His remarks came after a local daily reported the KMA was in last-minute talks with a renowned weather scholar from an American university.
KMA officials said the foreign weather expert, once hired, will be in charge of enhancing KMA's forecasting accuracy and charting policies to promote weather forecast-relevant industries.
The newcomer is likely to get red-carpet treatment as a public official. They said the foreign scholar will be treated in the same manner as top wage-level government officials, whose annual salaries hover around 88.6 million won ($64,100).
``Including additional allowances, the total annually pay would reach more than $200,000,'' said a source who declining to be named.
The KMA plans to provide a house, personal secretary and full-time interpreter. It is also considering offering a round-trip flight ticket between Seoul and the scholar's hometown more than four times per year.
This unprecedented recruitment campaign is in line with the KMA's efforts to restore public confidence, which has been substantially undermined due to incorrect forecasts.
But the question is whether the non-Korean is capable of withstanding knee-jerk public sentiment if the prediction goes wide of mark.
The agency will introduce a high-end supercomputer, which is estimated at being 10 times faster than the current one, which has been in operation since 2004. KMA earmarked 55 billion won ($41 million) from this year's budget to purchase the computer.