[REPORTER'S DIARY]How Not to Hold a Meeting

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[REPORTER'S DIARY]How Not to Hold a Meeting

"We sit idle and wait in the lobby for four to five hours, despite the work that is piling up in our office. It is very absurd," said a department head at the Ministry of Construction and Transportation. He had come to participate in the ministry's report of important issues before the Construction and Transportation Standing Committee of the National Assembly, which was held on Monday.

On the day that report was given, as many as 70 officials from the Ministry of Construction and Transportation showed up at the National Assembly building, including the minister, the vice minister, assistant ministers, bureau directors and department heads. But most of them said or did nothing, except some essential officials.

A new special session of the National Assembly began at the start of this month. It is ridiculous that government officials must lay their work aside and crowd into the National Assembly for a new session.

Whenever a standing committee of the National Assembly holds a hearing, all of the relevant ministry's executives go to the National Assembly.

Why does this happen? "Because lawmakers tend to inquire about detailed things, rather than rough policies," a government official explained. "Only the officials who are directly responsible for the detailed things can respond to such questions." If a minister fails to answer a question from the lawmakers, he comes under great criticism. Accordingly, a minister has no choice but to take working-level officials along with him. But in many cases, the accompanied working-level officials just waste time, with nothing to do.

At the hearing before the Construction and Transportation Standing Committee, held at the start of this week, the Ministry of Construction and Transportation's reports was suspended only after 15 minutes from the opening, due to the conflict between the ruling party and the opposition party.

The ministry officials just waited for resumption of the hearing. By doing so, they could not come out of the National Assembly building until they had heard that the hearing had been called off and it might not be resumed that day so they might as well go home. Thus, they just wasted the day.

Accordingly, government officials say, "If the National Assembly holds sessions at all times, we had better move our offices to Yeouido, to go to National Assembly every day."

In short, this is an odd situation caused by lawmakers who are never satisfied unless they can summon a large number of government officials. Government officials then have no choice but to follow the outdated request of lawmakers.

New systems to save time and make work more efficient, such as Internet conferences, are being quickly adopted. But only the National Assembly is going against the trend. Lawmakers likely think that they cannot exercise their authority unless they meet with government officials face to face and criticize them.

"I'm afraid that the National Assembly is obstructing changes in society rather than going in accordance with trends," a government official said. We should listen to the words.

The writer is a reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kang Kap-saeng

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