Public servants, literally‘Even when the nation is in difficulty you get your regular paycheck. And there is no one to take the blame, even when you waste over 2 to 3 trillion won on a project that should have cost 1 trillion won.”
“Even when there is a financial crisis, even when economic growth falters and job openings become rare, you don’t have to worry about getting laid off or worry your paycheck will be late.”
Who is the “you” in these quotes? President Lee Myung-bak was talking about civil servants. He was reminding them that they were servants in every sense of the word.
“They say they are literally servants but they need to look back and think whether they have been servants to the people,” President Lee said. “Servants should wake up earlier than their masters, who are the people.”
President Lee’s perfect idea of a public servant is a creative official who works from early in the morning, who is on-site all day.
He wants the official to work hard from the crack of dawn and to be prepared to think outside conventional parameters of thinking to find solutions.
These comments are as refreshing as his comment about “pulling out the utility pole from the streets.”
By this phrase President Lee means getting rid of unreasonable regulations.
The Namdaemun fire last month was perhaps a timely event.
It showed that public officials at the Cultural Heritage Agency, Jung District Office and Jungbu Fire Department were jointly responsible for the tragedy.
In reality, they were lazy and whined that they have too much work to do when they are out of the office.
When President Lee was mayor of Seoul, he listened to his subordinates. It didn’t matter if they were assistant heads or lower. If you have talent, you progress. That’s his line of thinking.
After all, Lee himself rose from a subsection head to a department chief in just four years.
Lee is trying to demonstrate to central government officials how he made City Hall officials compete against each other. But reprimanding them will not help. He needs to find a system that allows public servants the opportunity to compete against one another and to take on more responsibility.
Lazy public servants should be trained first. If that does not work, they should be kicked out.