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Gov’t Officials Threading on Thin Ice

Posted December. 10, 2002 22:43,   


`Government officials are on full alert….`

A, a director at the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, recently turned down an invitation from his high school alumni function. He used to go to the yearend function until last year, but this year, it is different – the presidential election is only about a week away.

˝I can imagine people talking about the coming presidential election and if I get caught in the conversation and what I say is later leaked out, I might be misunderstood for supporting a certain candidate,˝ he said. ˝I don’t want such thing to happen and that’s why I decide not to go.˝

With the presidential election in a dead heat and only 9 days away, government officials are extra cautious about what they say. The prevailing mood among them is being neutral and safe rather than taking a risk of taking side with a certain candidate.

In particular, the trend is strong among manager at the level 2 and below whose term is guaranteed until retirement.

B, a senior manager at the Ministry of Health and Welfare expecting a promotion to director level, said, ˝When you see such a dead heat competition like this election, you had better stay far away and low profile. That is the best way.˝ He added that he would not mind whether he get promoted or not this time.

C, a director at the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, goes straight back home after work except when he drink with junior staff sometimes. ˝I have decided not to meet friends until the election ends,˝ he said. ˝They are understanding my decision.˝

Reflecting the cautious mood, high-ranking officials at government agencies refrain themselves from going business trips to local areas to avoid any misunderstanding.

Meanwhile, restaurants located near the government complex in Sejong-ro, Seoul, are seeing sales decline sharply as officials stop visiting. ˝Regular customers, who are mostly working at government agencies, have almost stopped visiting since the campaign began late last month,˝ said an owner of a restaurant at Sejongro.

Hyun-Doo Lee ruchi@donga.com