Hiring system reformed at scandal-hit ministry

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Hiring system reformed at scandal-hit ministry

New hiring rules for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade were announced yesterday in an attempt to get beyond a nepotism scandal and other favoritism allegations from the past.

With the reformed employment policies, “all problems related to personnel practices have been corrected,” newly installed Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said.

Special attention was paid to the so-called special selection process, which bypassed the traditional hiring method based on the foreign service exam to hire people from the private sector or with special qualifications.

The new rules come after a recent investigation into the Foreign Ministry’s hiring methods by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security (MOPAS).

The investigation’s results, announced at the beginning of this month, revealed that ten children of high-ranking public officials and diplomats were unfairly favored to get jobs at the ministry. They included the daughter of former Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, who was forced to step down after it was disclosed that the ministry tailored requirements for an open post to favor his daughter’s application.

The new policies yesterday focused on several areas, the first being the special selection process, which waives the foreign service test.

“The special selection process for Foreign Ministry workers at the fifth grade or higher will be taken over by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security,” said Kim. “Workers specializing in foreign languages or other areas of expertise will be up for special selection, but there will be no contract workers and only those with previous experience in the field will be hired.” New recruits for sixth and seventh grade positions will also be hired by MOPAS. Children of high-ranking officials or diplomats will be up for additional screening.

Kim also stated that higher positions in the ministry would be opened up, with more outside hires for foreign embassies and the Foreign Ministry itself.

“For starters, we will take outside hires for the heads for policy planning and cultural diplomacy,” Kim said.

Also, 14 high-ranking positions in roughly 70 embassies outside Korea, 20 percent of the higher positions in those locations, will be open for outside hires from other government ministries or the private sector.

Another change that drew attention was a “strike-out” policy to penalize diplomats who fail internal capability tests.

“The Foreign Ministry already has the highest capability test failure rates among all other ministries,” said Kim.

Diplomats to be promoted or hired at department director levels will be subject to capability tests, and those that fail the test three times will be denied promotions.

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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