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Municipal Governments Gaining Weight after Weight Loss

Posted July. 11, 2005 03:20,   


Growing Bigger Again-

According to the Ministry of Administration and Home Affairs, since 1997 when Korea suffered the Asian financial crisis and was advised to restructure all public and private sectors, the number of public officers has been down by 48,876 between 1998 and 2001.

However, from 2002, the number increased again. About 44 percent of the reduction during the four years since 1998, or 21,735, has returned to local offices.

In the case of Ulsan, the number of public officers was down by 203, right after the financial crisis, but over the last three years, the number increased by 503, more than double the amount. Gyeonggi Province reduced its employees by 5,079 only to add 4,923 again, bringing its personnel total to a similar size before the restructuring.

Almost every local municipal government has more employees than the standard and revised limits the ministry adopted in 2003.

The standard limit means the number of core personnel based on the size, population, finances, and level of development of each area, and the revised limit is the number of staff each local government can bring in at its own discretion within the range of one to five percent of the standard limit.

Staff Increases Bypassing the Law-

Northern Jeolla Province is running a “Support Team for Taekwondo Park.” After its aborted attempt to create a “Task Force Team for Hosting the Winter Olympics,” it simply changed the name last year.

Ulsan City launched a team in charge of preparing for the International Whaling Committee meeting with five staffers, including an officer of the Harbor and Marine Department last March. As the IWC annual meeting ended in May, the city replaced the team with a “Harbor Development Support Team” under the same department.

North Gyeongsang Province divided its forestry department into a forestry policy department and a forestry conservation department. It is considering splitting the taxation accounting department that was integrated in the restructuring process a few years ago.

After the government started to allow provincial and local governments to open one department or two teams and one team, respectively, to support temporary tasks or development plans best suited for a community, municipal governments are eager to create new organizations.

Efforts to Maintain Lean Organizations-

Suncheon City in South Jeolla Province combined its agriculture policy department and its agriculture distribution department into one after a business assessment last year criticized that 30 to 40 percent of works overlapped. The city developed 20 new businesses including bio-agriculture.

Choi Deok-lim, manager of the department of approval and customer service, who led the project, said, “If we had the same organizational structure, it would have been impossible to do without the additional 30 personnel.”

It is difficult to find a municipal government like Suncheon City that is trying to raise efficiency without increasing the number of staff. Most claim that it is inevitable to increase the number of employees because of work from the central government and the expansion of administrational service.

Kang Dong-jin from the headquarters of the public officers’ union in South Gyeongsang Province remarked that “the ratio of public officers to population in charge in Korea is 54.9 to one, compared to 28.9 to one in Japan and 12-15 to one in the U.S., Britain, Denmark, and France.”

“The central and municipal governments should inspect redundant works and find out increase or decrease in demand,” maintained Kang Hyung-gi, professor of the Department of Public Administration at Chungbuk National University. “They should focus on functional innovation by creating new works to increase public services and abolishing teams without specific businesses.”