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[Editorial] Why Is the Government`s Record Poorly Managed?

[Editorial] Why Is the Government`s Record Poorly Managed?

Posted December. 08, 2001 11:47,   


It is shocking that the records about the 370,000 drafted soldiers and workers during the Japanese occupation, which were transferred by the Japanese government, have been buried for 30 years. The records, which were transferred by the Japanese government throughout four times from 1971 till 1993, have been stored away in the Government Archives and Records Service (GARS). This is a clear example that illustrates the bureaucratic and careless management and preservation of the government`s records. Moreover, it is the government`s great shame since this was revealed through an effort of a civilian, who has tried to confirm the memorial service day.

Those who are in charge of records preservation tried to explain the situation saying "The written names were those that had been changed to Japanese names, and there were many unrecognizable characters. It was realistically difficult to contact individually not only because the legal domiciles were different from the addresses but also because we did not know where they were living." However, think about this from the position of people who pay the taxes to the nation and are supposed to receive the public services. If memorial service has been held on the wrong days due to the government`s negligence, how could one not be enraged when one finds out that the records were stored in the GARS without being classified. Knowing that the successive governments have left the records untouched, it seems natural for people to question as to for why the government exists and what kinds of services the government officials provide.

It is the duty of the public office and the present generation to history to maintain and classify the government records and to reflect them in the administration. In the long run, it is a way to guide the conscientious policy decision making of the government officials. Therefore, one cannot expect a democratic and developed country when the public records are not systematically managed and preserved. It is also impossible to realize the information society.

Although we had a law for the preservation of records, the government officials did not abandon the customary practice that privatizes the records written during one`s service, or destroys them for the fear that they may need to take responsibilities after retirement. Thus, the `law on the management of the records of the public institutions` was not legislated until 1998 to set up the transparent, responsible, and strict preservation management. However, it is pointed out that the unity and effectiveness is much behind compared with the U.S. and France, of which the national record office manages the administration, jurisdiction and legislation.

Compared with the heavy duties of the GARS, it is merely a low-ranking organization (second grade chief) under the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs. Although the records of each ministry, which were classified as permanent and semi-permanent records, should be transferred to the GARS, most records are piled up in stacks where humidity and temperature control system is not established. 90 percent of the records are left in the document storages of each ministry to the point of the `violation of regulation`. With this incident, the government should correct the record management system.