Civil servant abuse a growing issue

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Civil servant abuse a growing issue

Four civil welfare servants under pressure from tremendous workloads committed suicide in 2013, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The string of suicides earlier this year came as a shock to many, as public service positions tend to be highly coveted for their job security, and highlights a growing problem in the civil service sector.

And as welfare policies have continued to expand in recent years, it turns out that stress isn’t the only factor contributing to low worker morale.

Civil welfare servants have been subject to constant verbal and physical abuse by local recipients an average of 87 times per month in the past three years, Democratic Party Representative Lee Un-ju said yesterday, citing statistics from the ministry.

“The government needs to come up with more specific and stern legal measures to cope with increasing and persistent abuses [waged by disgruntled residents] and establish a [safe] working environment for workers to feel [assured] of their safety,” the 40-year-old opposition party lawmaker said.

Lee said a total of 3,379 instances of abuse against welfare workers were recorded from January 2010 through March 2013.

That abuse has drastically increased in the past year.

Over an 11-month period - from May 2012 to March 2013 - an average of six abuse cases were reported per day against welfare workers, which is more than three times the average number recorded from 2010 through April 2012, which came to about 1.7 times a day.

During that same period, a total of 1,970 abuses were reported.

Of the 3,379 cases of violence inflicted by residents over the past three years, only 191 cases were settled through legal means after welfare workers filed complaints.

Some 202 cases involved premeditated violence in which residents who were disgruntled over their welfare benefits carried weapons such as knives and threatened others around them, while 3,177 cases were spontaneous.

Lee said 3,195 cases reportedly took place at local community centers in Seoul, while 184 violent cases occurred elsewhere.

Of those 184 cases, 161 were against civil servants at local government offices in provincial areas.

In a testament to the heavy workloads experienced by welfare workers, Democratic lawmaker Lee Chan-yeol said yesterday that the Seoul city government’s 4,134 welfare workers are charged with overseeing the welfare status of 1.84 million people in the city.

On average, that amounts to about one welfare worker for every 446 people.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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