Guard our local democracy

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Guard our local democracy

A public servant in Miryang, South Gyeongsang, was caught hacking into the city mayor’s e-mail account and attempting to forward the content to a potential rival candidate.

The sender of the e-mail that the public servant attempted to forward was a city hall employee, thanking the mayor for his hand in his promotion and for his pledge of support during the campaign for the June elections.

The incident not only exposes the moral hazard among public servants, but also indicates pre-election signs of patronage and cronyism.

The country has gone to gubernatorial polls four times since local government elections were introduced. But civil servants continue to line up behind their potential future bosses with no sign that the cycle will end.

The Board of Audit and Inspection makes routine investigations, but it still falls short of rooting out surreptitious alliances that threaten to warp public administration.

Public servants’ involvement in elections is banned under the Civil Service Electoral Law Article 60. Yet bureaucrats cannot truly succeed without political support because of the private interest in post appointments.

Police suspect the hacker who was caught trying to leak the mayor’s e-mail was bitter over his appointment and so tried to help the potential candidate of a rival camp in the coming elections. Engagement in the electoral process by bureaucrats is pernicious to local democratic administrative institutions as it can encourage private favors or revenge tactics in personnel management afterwards. For example, one district government in Seoul replaced 25 executives, including the deputy mayor, after a new mayor was seated.

An administration cannot work in a healthy manner for the welfare of the local residents if this kind of discontinuity and unpredictability persists. We need to establish a system to shield public servants from the election fervor in order to develop grassroots democracy, even if it’s a little late.

Civil servants who work on-site to meet the demands of the public must be evaluated based on the quality of their work, not their political preferences or allegiances. At the same time, law enforcement officials must investigate the Mi-ryang incident and punish anyone for any illegalities found to prevent such irregularities from recurring.

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