[EDITORIALS]Discipline starts at the top

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[EDITORIALS]Discipline starts at the top

The government says it will conduct a special inspection of the public sector to strengthen discipline in closing out its term. The situation in the public service is getting out of control, it admits. There have been signs of power struggle in key parts of the government. Classified information has been disclosed by a senior military officer. Public officials are taking sides on presidential candidates. Material purported to be wiretapping transcripts has been waved around publicly. There are suggestions that prosecutors are at odds over investigating politically-charged cases. There are ample reasons to indicate that the government is in the thick of confusion and trouble, so a vow to toughen discipline would be welcome. But it is difficult to expect any success. A more prevalent expectation among officials is that it would only encourage them to be passive.

We need to look at the cause of this cynicism in public service. For a treatment to be effective, an accurate diagnosis is necessary. The public sector is wary because more than two weeks after the cash-for-summit allegations surfaced, the administration is still doing nothing about them. The commander of the unit assigned to intercept North Korean communications has said it would be better to leave the military than to serve this kind of leadership. Skeptics ask whether it is possible to expect discipline when the real issue -- whether a key military report was scrapped -- has been politicized.

Can the leadership work when all it does is deny everything and does not follow up to discover the truth? There is a saying that the water upstream needs to be clean for the water downstream to be clean. The same can be said about the government's discipline problem.

The administration will never be convincing as long as the leadership neglects its job to correct fundamental problems but preaches discipline to the lower ranks. That can only breed resentment and distrust among government workers.

We need for the Blue House to get to the bottom of major issues in the headlines and to explain to the public what really went on. The government's job, with new Prime Minister Kim Suk-soo in office, is to realize what needs to be done and start doing it.

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