Reform the public sector

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Reform the public sector


It came to light the other day that the Korea Gas Corporation’s labor union has engaged in inappropriate practices. In a briefing by public corporations at the Blue House, Choo Kang-soo, the new president of the gas company, confessed that he hadn’t been able to tour branch offices because of protests by the labor union. The union blamed his so-called parachute appointment. It is truly shocking.

In his first meeting with labor, the union demanded that he give them gifts, as was a customary practice when a new president was employed. The union also asked him to resist the reform of public corporations, insinuating that if he did otherwise, he should be prepared to lose his post.

It is easy to presume that Kogas is not alone. As the labor union used the expression “customary practice,” other public corporations perhaps face similar circumstances. Such chronic problems have not been unveiled because management closed its eyes to them because it had its own weakness ?? the parachute appointment.

Therefore, the former administrations hold half the responsibility. Their civil officials regarded posts as executives of public corporations as trophies they could take after retirement.

It is therefore natural that public corporations’ finances are unhealthy. According to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, 30 percent of 302 public corporations are suffering from chronic deficits.

But last year, the average annual labor cost for an employee at a public corporation was 53.4 million won ($40,000), 66 percent higher than the private sector. In short, public corporations didn’t work to improve their finances. Rather they only used taxpayer money to protect their interests.

This year, cooperation between labor and management is required more than ever to overcome the economic crisis. We are disappointed with the Kogas labor union’s moves. The union members gave the impression that they cared about only themselves. The government must punish the labor union for having demanded the impossible, in order to establish discipline in society.

Reforms in public corporations are a difficult task that should begin with cutting unhealthy ties between political circles, the government and public corporations. The “advancement of public corporations” must lead to real reform. Restructuring through privatization and mergers is the right way to correct wrong practices in public corporations.

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