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[Editorial] Gov’t Entirely Run by the President

Posted April. 02, 2008 06:23,   


The fundamental duties of civil servants are to protect the lives and property of the people and to eliminate inconveniences and difficulties that citizens face. In addition, public servants are responsible for maintaining an efficient government structure and ensuring taxes are spent wisely. They also help people launch a business or pursue a career in the best possible environment. In order to fulfill these duties faithfully, public officials must be able to address them and fix problems before anyone files a complaint, all the while showing a determination to put the public’s interests before anything else.

It was almost like watching a comedy show when an electricity pole on the road near the southwestern Daebul Industrial Complex, which had obstructed traffic over the past five years despite mounting civil complaints, was eventually removed in just a few days once then President-elect Lee Myung-bak addressed the problem. Recently, a number of government ministries, including the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, hastily disbanded illegitimate task forces, which were established in order to create positions for those left out after the government restructuring, only after President Lee’s strong disapproval. If the president did not address those problems in person, the electricity pole would still remain on the road and the government’s streamlining efforts would have ended up becoming just window dressing.

Regarding the attempted kidnapping of a schoolchild in Goyang City, police originally played down the case. It was only after the president personally visited the responsible police station and reprimanded the staff that the station increased manpower and arrested a suspect. It was not something impossible for the police to do. What would have happened if the president did not address the case? The culprit would be still out there, ready to commit another crime that might take the precious lives of young children, like Hye-jin and Ye-seul.

These are just some examples that illustrate the idleness and apathetic attitude of public servants. The president has repeatedly urged government officials that the government must take an initiative to foster change. However, changes in the bureaucracy have been far too slow and passive. How can anyone say that a government that functions only after the president gives a direct order is properly functioning? Unless the mindset of government employees change, the government will not be able to make Korea join the ranks of advanced countries or serve the needs of the people.

Korea is not a small country where the president can afford to oversee every affair. But, if the police, who are directly linked to the livelihood of citizens, neglect their duties, not only the president, but the whole public, has no choice but to reprimand them. Public servants must take initiatives before the president address the problems directly. Public servants must also foster change and reflect on President Lee’s criticism, “The government is at a critical stage where public servants have become a hindrance.”