Rebuilding from scratch

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Rebuilding from scratch

The flaws of Korea’s bureaucratic system have been shamefully laid bare in the capsizing of the Sewol ferry. Our administrative system seems to run well during normal times but ends up totally losing its grip when it is up against a sudden, unforeseen crisis. It is OK to lay back and work by the customs and rules when everything is business as usual. But in emergency situations that demand quick and decisive action, things must be done differently. Rigidity and self-serving passivism in bureaucratic society allows little room for creativity and flexibility in responding to pressing situations. The elephantine old-boy bureaucratic network is slow, closed and inept.

The Sewol tragedy demands a total makeover of our bureaucratic system. But breaking down its foundation and building it up anew cannot be done overnight. It is a long-term project that must continue one administration after another. The Park Geun-hye government has the mission to lay out the road map and start upon the first crucial steps.

What is imperative is a new safety infrastructure. A newly-established government emergency management agency must work as a guide to ensure that our governments place safety first.

The organization must be different from the start. Civil society and the legislature should participate and make creative contributions. The Ministry of Security and Public Administration and the Coast Guard must be humble, for they are the first bodies to be overhauled. Administrative reform requires private support and initiative to be successful. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone appointed a well-known entrepreneur to head a panel for landmark public-sector reform in the 1980s. Toshiwo Doko, former head of Toshiba, was the chairman of the commission on administration reform and brought in a number of experts from the private sector.

There should be no limits on the new emergency control agency. The United States created the mighty Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. There is no need for the Ministry of Security and Public Administration to stay in such large form when there is a separate organization in charge of emergency and home safety affairs. The Coast Guard also should be entirely reorganized. Then we will eventually end up with a reinvented government.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 10, Page 30

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