[EDITORIAL] Don't Play With Numbers

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[EDITORIAL] Don't Play With Numbers

The Civil Service Commission pledged fair regional representation and merit-based employment as it announced the renewal of guidelines for government personnel practices. It is not easy to buy the commission's argument that the current government's regional bias is the lowest among postwar Korean governments, even though it is backed with data and calculations. It is a far cry from what the general public feels, giving rise to a feeling that it is an attempt to patch up the problems for its own interests.

The standards used in the survey are vague. The commission applied 1949 statistics for demographic regions, explaining that it is valid to use the demographic data from around the time of the surveyed officials' births. Given numerous upheavals in modern Korean history, including war and industrialization, does such a simple yardstick guarantee validity? The hometowns of the surveyed civil servants were judged "comprehensively," taking the main place of residence while growing up as the standard when deemed necessary, "although their birthplaces by the standards of their ancestral seats were considered." These criteria leave room for arbitrary classifications. The opposition points out that about 10 percent of civil servants without named hometowns were excluded from the survey. Neither is it persuasive to exclude the Blue House secretariat. The offered remedy, appointing ministers and vice ministers from different regions, is childish.

The key to the argument is that the current government's personnel lineup is one region's practical seizure of powerful offices and posts such as the prosecution, police and National Tax Service. The government issues statistics and denies such a practice, but meets with general skepticism. Since the launch of this administration, people from a certain region and a certain school have been extremely well treated regardless of hierarchy, capabilities and achievements. In addition, the rumor of a backstage string-puller emerges in every personnel reshuffle. When rule-based standards are broken because of regional bias, those who are put at a disadvantage develop grievances, which grow into mistrust in the administration. The controversy over biased personnel employment cannot be solved with a trick of numbers. The only remedy is to rectify it at each workplace.
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