Ministry may finally fire diplomats

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Ministry may finally fire diplomats

Korean diplomats lacking the ability or the personality required to perform their duties could be stripped of their status as envoys, officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said yesterday.

The officials said a new law that would give the ministry the power to review and terminate positions is under serious review.

“Under a bill being discussed now, those with extremely bad attitudes or abilities at work, or those summoned back from overseas diplomatic posts before their terms expire, will be reviewed, given opportunities for re-education, and then will be forced out unless they show improvement,” said an official at the ministry.

The measure, if taken, will be tougher than the current three-strikes system the ministry announced in October as part of its reform of personnel management.

The three-strikes system put diplomats at director or higher levels under regular assessments and screens out those not measuring up to basic qualifications as diplomats.

If they failed three straight assessments, they would not be given any assignment, but they would still remain as officials. The ministry had reservations about stripping employees of diplomat status because of laws on personnel management for public officials that guarantee job security.

In another bid to raise efficiency, the ministry is planning to launch a draft system for director-level employees this week, the officials said yesterday.

The system, in which higher-ranking officials select director-level officials they want, is aimed at boosting competition and getting rid of senior officials recognized as poor performers.

The officials said that under the draft system, a director who was not chosen by any seniors three straight times during ministry reshuffles would be subject to the three-strikes system, which could lead them to being fired by the ministry.

The ministry is also sorting out some ambassadors overseas who will be summoned in the near future before finishing their term to hold them responsible for poor performances, the officials said.

The ministry has been working to create a more efficient and fair personnel management system to make the foreign affairs’ workforce more competent and competitive, a move prompted by public furor over the ministry’s controversial recruitment of a daughter of former Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan.

The nepotism scandal, in which Yu’s 35-year-old daughter was accused of getting her ministry post unfairly, resulted in Yu’s resignation in early September.

Shin Kak-soo, vice Foreign Minister, confessed in a letter sent to acquaintances and acquired by the JoongAng Ilbo, that the ministry’s personnel management issue made this year the toughest for him in his 34-year career as a diplomat.

“During the month or so after the minister [Yu] resigned over the scandal in early September - when I had to clean up the scandal as acting minister - each day felt as long as a year,” Shin wrote in the letter.

Shin said the scandal stemmed from a technical mistake and lack of knowledge in personnel systems, not out of an intentional bid to unfairly recruit Yu’s daughter.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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