Public reform derailedThe government seems to have withdrawn or delayed its reform plans for public corporations. The office of senior secretary for state affairs planning pushed for reform in public corporations, but the office has left the job to each government agency and asked them to prepare detailed plans. It had been planned to announce reform schedules for public corporations in July and to implement reform in August.
However, the government instead decided that each ministry would carry out reforms quietly and even delayed reform until after President George W. Bush’s visit to Korea. The decision reflects concern that the labor unions at public corporations will resist the changes.
Authorities worry that if the public workers union joins the frontline of summer union battles and anti-American protests are staged when President Bush visits, candlelight vigils, which have finally calmed down, will be sparked again.
However, reform in public corporations can’t be implemented if the government attempts to hide the plan in fear of labor union’s resistance and protests. Leaving the reforms to each ministry can be translated as meaning the government won’t carry out reforms at all because ministries and the public corporations that they supervise are entangled.
Reform in public corporations won’t be easy even if the Blue House and the Ministry of Strategy and Finance push ahead reforms. Thus, it is hard to expect that each ministry will be able to boldly carry out the task.
Reform at public corporations was one of the key tasks the Lee Myung-bak administration promised to carry out. Reform at public corporations is still supported by the people despite their candlelight vigils. If the government withdraws or delays reform in the face of candlelight vigils or resistance from the labor unions, there won’t be anything that the government can do.
The Lee administration has lost its drive for the reform as it has failed in its policies and lost the people’s trust.
However, if the government withdraws from a policy that is supported by the people, the people’s distrust in the government will only worsen.
The government must again think about its raison d’etre. It should decide whether it will abandon public corporation reform, an important task for the country, because of resistance among some interest groups, or if it will protect the national interest and enhance our growth engine for the future.