The presidential office is moving to establish an inspection team targeting public officials. The new inspection team will be operated in a way it will conduct an actual probe when the public official supervisory team, to be newly launched under the Office of Government Policy Coordination at the Prime Minister’s Office, gathers information on officials’ irregularities and notifies the team. In the past, a government official inspection team was functioning under the senior presidential secretary for the civil affairs’ office during the era of the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae. Still, the team was dissolved following the May 2022 inauguration of President Yoon Suk Yeol, who had promised to dismantle the office as an election pledge. The new plan is designed to revive some of the inspectional functions for civil servants and place the team under the Senior Presidential Secretary for Public Office Discipline or as an independent group.
The government is moving to establish a new team in charge of inspecting public officials at the presidential office in the second year of Yoon’s term in office, apparently in a bid to enforce stronger discipline in officialdom. The measure comes amid a flurry of criticism that a string of incidents hardly desirable in officialdom have happened in recent months, including the military’s sloppy response to the infiltration of North Korean drones, the Halloween disaster in Itaewon, and problematic preparation for and response to railway accidents.
The presidential office’s function to inspect public officials should go beyond simply identifying civil servants involved in irregularities. Instead, it should focus on creating an environment of active, hard-working ‘officialdom.’ To some extent, the Yoon administration failed to accelerate the implementation of state agendas due to bureaucrats’ indifference and inaction in its early days. Certain bureaucrats were reportedly reluctant to participate in implementing policies aimed at improving people’s life, including a ‘digital platform government’, because they are uncertain what will happen to such policies during the next administration.
In this light, the public official inspection team will need to be established and operated in a way that not only addresses corruption committed by public officials but also corrects bad practices that should be amended without fail during any administration, and thus increases achievements in state administration and help improve people’s life.
The launch of the new team should never lead to public officials’ easy-going attitude with the mindset, “I will not do anything rather than risking my interest by working.” The grave economic situation in Korea and around the world requires that all government ministries join hands to take care of working-class people’s livelihoods, and officialdom has countless tasks accordingly. As such, the new team should be designed and formed to strengthen the nation’s overall inspection capabilities to ensure the country will be able to detect irregularities among public officials at their roots and correct bad practices and structures in officialdom.