Civil servants exhorted to enjoy their holidays

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Civil servants exhorted to enjoy their holidays


Lee Geun-myeon, the founding leader of the new Ministry of Personnel Management, has ordered wide-scale reforms in the way Korea’s public servants work, urging them to refrain from making excuses out of rules and to take more vacations to foster innovative ideas.

Hosting a workshop last week for workers in the organization established last Wednesday under the Prime Minister’s Office, the ex-Samsung human resources expert raised questions about chronic practices in the civil servants community: making excuses out of laws or rules and postponing action when asked to perform specific tasks or projects.

“Practice, stereotypes and vested rights are direct impediments to change,” he said to the 300 workers of the new ministry.

“Don’t say no, citing law or regulations, and produce solutions on how to do things … Change should start from overhauling the framework of thoughts and innovating ideas.”

The two-day workshop was held at the central civil servants education center in Gwacheon, southeast of Seoul, starting last Friday afternoon. Lee, who untied his necktie, gave a speech in front of the attendees, who later had discussions in small groups, which each group described the following day.

The HR specialist who spent over three decades at Korea’s top conglomerate also took issue with the lower productivity of civil servants compared to that of private-sector workers.

After one official proposed that civil servants should be allowed to more proactively use the holidays allowed them every year, Lee said, “Korea’s productivity stands second from last among members of the OECD. Working longer does not necessarily boost productivity.”

He then made a surprise announcement: that the ministry will no longer give out allowances for unused vacation days starting in 2015. He suggested civil servants start thinking of innovative ideas while taking vacations. “Ideas can come out only when you are on holiday,” he said.

The response from the workshop participants was mixed, however.

Senior officials said they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to use the holidays but will even sacrifice the compensation.


BY CHANG SE-JEONG, SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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