[Campus commentary]More service neededDownsizing the government has been a big issue since the inauguration of President Lee Myung-bak. As a Korean citizen, I have always believed that restructuring government organizations and reshuffling the civil service is necessary and will change the government for the better by making it a more efficient service provider in the 21st century.
However, the new administration should understand that there are some public offices outside Seoul that are desperately in need of extra manpower. I took notice of the situation as a civil service worker in the passport division at Daegu’s City Hall where I have been working since February 2007.
Serving my country as a public servant was tough for me at first because it was something that I never had in mind. I had always wanted to enlist to become an interpreter for the Korean Army, but my condition at the time of the military physical examination hindered me from reaching that goal. However, I learned many lessons while working at the passport division.
I work with five others like me in alternative service, assisting the regular public servants on staff with passport applicants. Due to the rising number of travelers, there is also a lot more paperwork to be completed in a relatively short time. During peak seasons, we have become accustomed to dealing with more than a thousand people a day, as City Hall is the only office in Daegu that issues passports.
During work days, the public servants have to deal with not only several hundred passport applicants, but also with drunks and angry citizens who are unhappy with government policies. Some hot-tempered applicants can be impatient about minor mistakes made on their documents. It is true that the efficiency and the quality of service of public officials are somewhat less satisfactory than that of the private sector. But people tend to expect too much from public servants without always taking the current situation into consideration. It is impossible to provide the quality of service equivalent to that of a private bank under the current system.
For better service, the government should increase the number of officials in the front offices or open more passport offices so that officials can devote more energy and time to the needs of each citizen.
Also, as the number of Korean senior citizens increases, more officials are required in the front office to provide individualized service for their needs.
As the new president emphasizes creating new jobs for underprivileged people based on an active welfare policy, I think public offices are good places to utilize them so they can provide better service to citizens.
As a public servant who has so far served over 100,000 people in a year, I still have 100,000 more to serve before I get discharged in April 2009. Although I get really tired of the redundant and mechanical nature of my work, it makes me happy to see those who give me a smile. I am glad that I can be of help and I am sure that there are many others, including my co-workers, who take pride in serving the people and the country through this kind of work.
* The writer is a dual degree student at the University of Delaware and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. He is currently serving his military term at a government office in Daegu.
by Benjamin Minsuk Kim