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[Editorial] Seoul, Role Model for Government

Posted November. 03, 2007 09:09,   


The Seoul Metropolitan Government has announced that it will cut back its 1,300 employees by 2010. The decision is opposite to that of the Roh Moo-hyun administration, which has been busy hiring additional government workers over the past five years. Following the initiatives of the Ulsan Metropolitan City, the Seoul city government also announced that it would weed out a minimum of three percent of its workers who were found to be incompetent or lazy as part of its reform drive to break the “iron rice bowl,” referring to the notion of secure lifetime employment. In addition, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon has announced that he will lay off 1,300 public servants of the city in the next three years.

Considering that 5,257 firefighters are exempted from the restructuring plan, about 20 percent of the total 10,432 city officials will be reduced. Departments will be merged and the existing seven posts for first-grade officials will be cut down to four.

In contrast, the central government increased 67,000 public servants over the past five years. The number of ministerial officials also swelled from 101 to 133. The increased number alone is more than six times that of Seoul city government. The central government also restructured its organizations 558 times and increased labor costs for civil servants alone by more than five trillion won.

Korea ranked 31 out of 55 countries in terms of government efficiency, according to a report by the International Institute for Management Development. Although the number of civil workers has increased, the efficiency of the government has decreased. While an increasing number of advanced countries have been seeking “a small, but strong government,” the Roh administration has constantly pushed against this international trend.

President Roh is also not content with the local governments’ personnel reform. He said, “I will make efforts to create a culture where people believe that the personnel reform of public officials is not a cure-all.” If the number of public servants is reduced, the government can allocate more taxpayers’ money towards strengthening the nation’s competitiveness. Talking to the incumbent government, which has only four months remaining in office, will be like talking to a wall. However, the next government must learn and follow in the footsteps of the Seoul and Ulsan cities’ personnel reform measures.