Privileged civil servantsJapan has been as bureaucratic as Korea in the past, but evidence suggests the country is changing its ways.
In the past Japanese government officials used to wield a great deal of power and influence, and their jobs were secure. But the Japanese government made an interesting move recently: It banned retired government officials from getting jobs in other companies where they can network and wield undue influence.
In addition, Japan is likely to abandon the national admission test for hiring high-ranking officials. Until now, people could become directors or executives in central government only if they had passed this test. Currently, 88 percent of high-level directors have passed this test. The policy has caused all kinds of damage because of the special privileges that these officials enjoy. But this looks set to end, because the government plans to strip away those benefits.
The government is also working to make retirement funds fairer by merging the civil servants’ pension scheme with the national one.
These changes began when former Prime Minister Zunichiro Koizumi took office in 2002. He emphasized the importance of small government and set about removing 1,500 regulations related to conglomerates and labor affairs. As a result, economic growth in this year’s third quarter was 2.6 percent, higher than earlier expectations, and the Toyota Motor Corporation has seen record profits in the first half of this year, while Sony Electronics and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. are recovering from earlier setbacks.
The situation in Korea is exactly the opposite. The people that the current administration appointed to high posts all share the same political convictions and ideologies. This helps make their jobs secure. In addition, government officials try to secure positions in public companies after retirement. This custom arose because public companies used to be afraid of the central government, so they tried to gain an advantage by appointing influential retirees.
And, like in Japan, most highly placed government officials have passed the national exam, which gives them lifetime privileges.
Now is the time to get rid of this unreasonable system. As seen in Japan, successful reforms in the public sector depend on the determination of leaders. We hope that unfair employment, unreasonable job security, privilege and unreasonable regulations will be eradicated soon.