[Letter to the editor]Hopeful sign in handling of junketMany officials from public enterprises traveled to South America claiming that the purpose of their trip was a “progressive seminar.” However, it was nothing more than a junket. But rather than just focusing on their immoral behavior, President Roh Moo-hyun’s intervention can be seen as a sign of further social change.
First, President Roh Moo-hyun’s surprise reprimand in a meeting with the officials can become a powerful warning to stop the habitual practices of Korean public officials. Many of them have used valuable opportunities such as overseas study trips and seminars in order to fulfill their own needs and wants. Moreover, it seems that some of them feel they deserve those privileges. Roh, on the other hand, defined their trip as a “blunder” rather than a privilege or a “progressive seminar,” and proclaimed that he will oversee official overseas study trips through a surveillance network.
The president also asked the Ministry of Planning and Budget to change some of its internal audit policies.
This shows his strong determination to root out what has been practiced for a long time. His direct warning to individuals in the meeting and his demand that the officials return their expenses allow the public to expect an end to such habitual practices, because officials will have to be more careful in how they behave and also need to take more responsibility, unless they want to resign.
In addition, this reprimand shows President Roh’s strong determination to keep the participatory government’s reputation. One of the most important missions of the participatory government is to repair the political, social and regional fragmentation that has long bedeviled the nation. However, this behavior by officials has dishonored the mission of the government and Roh’s effort to overcome lame-duck status. At least Roh can be exempted from criticism by acting strictly on this matter. Moreover, in accordance with what he said during the meeting, the Roh administration will try to strengthen its audit system, as well as its constituency, for the rest of his term. Thus, people can expect a more responsible and active implementation of policies.
Roh’s surprise reprimand is not a worthless remedy for wrongdoing by officials; it foreshadows some hope for the future.
There is an expression, noblesse oblige, which means praiseworthy behavior that is considered to be the responsibility of people in high positions. When government officials humbly accept criticism from Roh, which parallels that from the public, and show their social responsibility, noblesse oblige can be achieved by ensuring high moral standards.
Son Min-ji, Seoul