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Police reform in sight

Posted August. 01, 2018 08:06,   

Updated August. 01, 2018 08:06


Senior police officers often joke about how easy it was to become a patrol in the past. There was even an exam question that goes “Which animal is not in the zoo?” and had answers such as “bear” and “tiger.” Cops in movies and TV shows were often described as ignorant. There has been a sea change in the police. Police officers in TV shows nowadays are sharp and smart. The Korean National Police University started fostering elites in the police force since its foundation in 1981.

The national police academy offers great benefits such as free tuition, exemption from military service and promotion to a lieutenant after graduation. Brilliant minds flocked to the academy, and 120 graduates became high-level officer every year. As of May this year, 320 senior superintendents out of 583 and 51 deputy assistants out of 76 were graduates from the academy. Kang Shin-myung who graduated from the police academy became the second chief of the National Police Agency in 2014, and Min Gab-ryong, who is also an academy graduate, was appointed as the 4th head of the police. The police academy is about to go through a reform to prevent graduates from dominating high-level positions through their own network.

The National Police Academy Reform Committee was established on Monday and began discussing reform plans for the police academy. It is projected that the academy will allow other university graduates to the police academy as law schools do. Free tuition and military service exemption benefits will be discarded. Police academy graduates are aggrieved. They say there is a fierce competition for promotion as there are more competitors such as police cadets and those who passed the national bar exam, and the old school tie does not affect promotion as much as the prosecution. Some are concerned that securing suitable talents will become harder.

The police force has gone through a lot of changes, which can be seen by that only 5.2 percent of 3,126 successful patrol candidates were high school graduates in 2016. Open recruitments for police inspector in career service are popular among law school graduates. Even though police academy graduates took most of the high-level positions in the police, negative images are persisting because they are still influenced by people in power, which is being shown in the druking investigation. If the police cannot change the culture, recruiting high-fliers would do no good. Hopefully, the police reform will not be downward leveling.

Kee-Hong Lee sechepa@donga.com