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Public Officials Exhausted by Reform

Posted December. 03, 2004 23:02,   


A short play took place in a central department’s recital of reform cases on November 12.

The employees of the reform department wore posters with the words “rigid,” “indifference,” and “cynicism” on their necks and played the roles of “government officials before reform.”

When they showed wrong acts of government officials such as not dealing with a phone call from a civil applicant properly, a beggar promptly appeared on stage, sneering at them and saying, “You are like a hoard of beggars, even worse than I am. While taking the tax money from the people…”

The play ended with the government officials regretting their “past” and promising to be reborn as “new civil servants.”

One government official who watched this play expressed his bitterness, saying, “It was too extreme even for a play.” He said it looked as if the civil servant society was the object of reform.

A wave of reform is entering the civil servant society since President Roh Moo-hyun emphasized government renovation as the core reform assignment this year.

The reform movement has had significant positive effects such as the generation of ideas for a more constructive operation, but sometime faces opposition from government officials, as it shows signs of “reform supremacism.”

Experts say the civil servant society does indeed need change and renovation but demanding extreme reform will only cause side effects.

Government Officials Who Have “Reform-phobia”-

In some departments, departments and individuals themselves are graded by “reform points.” This system has side effects, such as causing people to strive more for good grades in “reform” rather than in their actual work.

A chief of a government department said, “Running or participating in educational groups is given high reform grades, so there is an untimely increase in clubs.”

One government official who recently received reform-related education said, “I felt I was being forced into a conversion of ideology because the word ‘reform’ was overly emphasized.”

Experiments in Civil Servant Society-

January this year, the government carried out a directorial personnel exchange program, in which directorial personnel of central departments switched places with each other, which was followed by a plan to abolish the ranks of government officials in the top three ranks, and the start of a high-rank government official group system to manage them on a governmental scale, a plan to be finalized by next year.

There are continuous experiments of various policies aimed at government officials. However, many are skeptical about their outcomes.

The personnel exchange program received positive evaluations in that it gave the directors involved a wider range of experience. On the other hand, however, the departments, faced with the upcoming one-year anniversary of the program in January, are having trouble determining whether to bring them back in or to extend their dispatch period.

The fact that the role of the committee directly under the president’s control has become too big is also daunting to the government officials.

A chief of a government department said, “Since the committee leads the enforcement of the policies, there are many cases in which the policies are more ideal than realistic.”

Professor Nah Tae-joon of Yonsei University (Department of Public Administration) pointed out, “Reform that is unilaterally enforced from above has a low possibility of succeeding because it causes resistance of government officials. It should be approached in a more strategic manner.”