&#91EDITORIALS&#93Hasty reform redux

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93Hasty reform redux

President-elect Roh Moo-hyun's an-nouncement on government reorganization is no surprise; it is a popular subject after every presidential election, and yesterday's an-nouncement is worth consideration.

Mr. Roh said recently that he would establish a presidential committee on administrative reform that would be run jointly by the government and private groups. "Some ministries will be expanded and others reduced; jobs at some ministries will be adjusted," Mr. Roh said yesterday. A transition team spokesman added that wholesale government reform would probably not happen before the Assembly elections in the spring of 2004.

Changes just to put a new imprint on the bureaucracy miss the point that a reorganization should be a way to force the government to adapt to changing times and a new environment. Many government agencies overlap; a significant number do nothing but waste money. On the other hand, some are short of money and manpower. We have already commented on the immediate need for reform in our trade and financial supervisory structure.

But wholesale changes may not be the right answer. When the Kim Dae-jung administration was launched, an overall government reform program was launched, some ministries were closed and others added -- and many of them were for the worse. The government also revived the deputy prime minister function just two years after that system was scrapped; retrogressive tinkering by the Kim administration are too numerous to count, and it is difficult to assess the wasted time and money they triggered.

Neither should reorganizations be announced in advance, as if they were threats. They should be done after thorough study. Premature announcement rattle the bureaucrats and degrade their job performance. Finally, saying that the reforms will come only after a new legislature is installed smacks of paying more attention to politics than to government efficiency.

Reorganizing the government is a task that must be done, but it should not be done hastily. The new team must try to make changes that will be good for at least a decade.
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