Cutting bureaucratic ties

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Cutting bureaucratic ties

In a teary televised address over the highly-criticized ferry disaster, President Park Geun-hye pledged to root out decades-old corruption and collusion rampant in public offices through sweeping reforms in the country’s bureaucratic system. She highlighted the three biggest flaws in bureaucracy - the self-serving old boys network, lax work attitude and behavior, and the cozy ties with the business and industrial sectors. They do not just apply to the public sector. They are inherent and widespread in every corner of our society. We cannot uproot these deeply-seated practices and customs overnight. But if we do not start now, we will never be able to prevent another disaster like the Sewol tragedy. It is what the sacrifice of hundreds of young students lives begs of us.

President Park focused on revamping and regulating the entrance and exit of public officials. Chief executive and audit posts in public enterprises overseeing safety regulations and supervision will be off-limits to bureaucrats. Rehiring procedures and regulations will be strengthened for retired public officials to further contain revolving-door practices. Placements for civilians in middle-rank positions or higher will be sharply increased to take up half of the posts available. Government offices so far have been based on vertical hierarchy with entrance primarily limited through state exams. The government also accepted advice from media and the opposition and plans to require retired senior government employees to disclose details of their career paths - the names of employers and titles - for 10 years after they leave their posting.

If these measures are carried out, they will be a big step toward fixing problems in our bureaucratic system. But some officials have suggested a complete ban on parachute and revolving-door placements. The harm that can be caused by the bond between the government and industries are serious, even deadly as proven in the Sewol disaster. Government officials at least should be prohibited from moving to jobs in umbrella associations and lobby groups and sever any influence-wielding ties.

There have been apologies, reproaches, and other measures taken before. Now we need to see action. Past governments have pledged to fight bureaucratic corruption and weaknesses at an early stage, but never went through with them. President Park in her first year declared she would root out revolving-door practices, but she did not follow through. Under the current administration, 52 percent of the chief executive posts at public enterprises were filled by bureaucrats. Parachute cases, the hiring of senior employees from ministries, accounted for 80 percent. The shady connections and collusion will never be stopped with words and will. Radical actions must be taken. The parachute cases should be dismissed to show that this time, the president is serious.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 20, Page 30

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