Accountability in bureaucracy

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Accountability in bureaucracy

A job for life, regular salary and pension have long been the hallmarks of the civil service profession in Korea.

But it may not be the job it used to be because of a stricter ethics code and anticorruption surveillance.

Nevertheless, many still feel they are over-privileged. Monthly pay is delivered regardless of merit and effort. To hone competitiveness and streamline bureaucratic bungling, some metropolitan governments have started performance reviews, sacking officials that are given poor ratings.

The Seoul Administrative Court recently rejected a suit by a civil servant against the city of Seoul for removing him from his position for incompetence.

The court said the country ensures the political neutrality and status of civil servants to enhance the efficiency of the state.

But such privileges should not be abused to ensure “jobs for life” and undermine administrative operations.

“The people pay for state management and civil servants should serve the people. Their status cannot be deemed extraordinary,” the court said, upholding the city authorities’ decision to fire the official, who failed to improve even after retraining.

The Civil Service Law also stipulates that a civil servant can be discharged if performance is deemed to be excessively lacking.

Seoul and Ulsan since 2007 have carried out merit-based reviews on city employees, but the program generated lukewarm a response from the central government and other local governments.

Employees of the public sector enjoy job security regardless of their performance, even as their corporate peers painstakingly struggle to survive in cutthroat competition.

Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik in a workshop with public-sector officials emphasized that public offices should no longer be envied as “a job of the gods,” free of pressure and competition.

Public officials should be evaluated on their merits to weed out incompetency and raise competitiveness. Only then will the government return to its origin of serving the people.
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