[EDITORIALS]Big profits in passportsIt has been nearly six months since the government’s bungled attempt to issue new passports wound up making things more difficult for travelers. We have not yet heard, however, when the government will fix the problem. The government is known to earn billions of won (millions of won) every year from the fees imposed on applicants for new passports or those who need to have their passport expiration date extended. It is unacceptable for the government to leave the problem unsolved while raking in huge amounts of cash in handling fees. It is high time it took the matter more seriously.
Unfortunately, the government’s careless and sluggish handling of this problem is only one of so many examples of its incompetence in providing administrative support for the public.
Several decades ago, people were forced to pay “speedy service fees” every time they made a request at a local government office to obtain documents related to social securities, welfare and other administrative services. But that was back in the days when the per-capita income was $200 to $300, and inefficient bureaucracy characterized the nation. Looking back, Korea’s administrative services seem to have regressed.
The Foreign Ministry, Planning Ministry, local provincial offices and other government agencies in charge of the issue keep making ridiculous excuses, saying they lack the resources and workers, and have too ineffecient a system, to provide efficient services. But think about it: What business in its right mind would manage such a lucrative service so poorly? In the marketplace, it would not take long for the company to go under.
Koreans no longer have faith in the government’s professed plan to increase the number of passport offices or establish online reservation systems. But the government has left the issue unresolved for nearly six months, even though it knew what would happen come summertime. Who is going to believe that the emergency measures this time will work?
If the government is not willing to deal with the hassle of providing passport services, it can just hand the operation over to the private sector. The government says it cannot do so, for security reasons. But there would be millions of private sector companies eager to handle the matter if the business is lucrative enough to yield billions of won in profit every year. If not, if the government is truly willing to solve the problem now, its first step must be to punish the officials in charge of the matter.