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Public Administration

Administrative reforms 2

1. Military Government

 

(1) Background

On May 16, 1961, then Major-General Park Chunghee led a coup d’état against the Second Republic under a revolutionary slogan, and established the military government that would remain in power for the next two and a half years.[1] Two days after the coup, Prime Minister Jang Myeon and his Cabinet members convened their final Cabinet meeting during which they stated their intention to resign all at once, while President Yun Boseon confirmed Park’s promulgation of martial law. On May 19, the Military Revolution Committee consolidated the transfer of power by reorganizing itself into the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction (SCNR), and opened the Revolutionary Cabinet the next day, thus launching the military government. On June 6, the Supreme Council passed and promulgated the Emergency Measures Act for National Reconstruction (EMANR). The new Act, given constitutional power, defined the SCNR as the supreme ruling organization overseeing the legislature, the judiciary, and the administration. President Yun continued to hold office until Park Chunghee, then Chairman of the SCNR, appointed himself as acting President on March 22, 1962.

 

(2) Purposes of Reforms

Like its predecessors in the First and Second Republics, the military government stated the democratization of administration, administrative efficiency, and territorial development as the overarching goals of its reforms.

 

(3) Main Actors and Means

Those who participated, or were enlisted, in the process of deciding and implementing administrative reforms in the military government differed significantly from their predecessors in terms of background and expertise. Whereas it was lawyers and others with legal education and training who mostly led the reorganizing task in the two previous republics, public officials, soldiers, and scholars of administration, politics and economics, particularly with experiences of studying in the United States or with American-style training, led the process in the military government.[2]

 

The military government set the precedent of mobilizing university professors in decision-making processes on reforms. Enlisting the participation of these outsiders, however, hardly meant that the process was faithful to the democratic ideal of participation. Although scholars of public administration with educational or training experience in the United States participated in the process, they subscribed to a very conservative view of organization and administration. Their contribution was thus more in the aspect of bolstering the instrumentality and efficiency of the administration, not its democratization (Oh, 2003).

 

It was the SCNR that led the process and implementation of governmental reorganization during the military government period. Under the SCNR’s supervision were the Standing Committee, various subcommittees, and the special committees of the Supreme Council, as well as the Ministry of Government Administration (MGA), the Office of Public Information, the People’s National Reconstruction Movement Headquarters, and the Central Information Agency. Overseeing organizational reform was the Special Committee on Governmental Reorganization (SCGR), comprised of eight members of the SCNR. These members met and decided on matters of organizational reforms by consensus (Park, 2004).

 

The military government attempted various changes and reforms, and set up the Administrative Management Bureau (AMB) as part of the MGA in July 1961 to better handle the implementing process. The AMB was later reorganized into the Secretariat for the Cabinet. It was charged with the task of overseeing government-wide administrative and organizational reforms, and included the Administrative Management Research Committee. The administrative reforms during this era of the military government were imposed in a top-down, single-handed and expedited manner.

The reform leaders who came to power through the violent coup needed to show tangible improvements and progress in order to secure a measure of legitimacy. These reformers, moreover, were quite interested in nation building and economic development as well. Accordingly, they made efforts to expand the functions of the state pertinent to economic development in their process of administrative reforms. This meant repeated reorganization of governmental bodies, as well as the expansion of the public sector and related institutions.[3] There were 11 organizational changes made during the military government period.

 

The new elite did not fear an active government and showed no reluctance in creating and expanding organizations and institutions where necessary to support active intervention by the state, especially when such moves supported administrative improvement. Shaping the overall reform campaign was the preference for centralization over decentralization, expediency over democracy, and standardization over diversity. Although local decentralization emerged as a slogan in the process of organizational reform, along with limited measures at practicing it, there was no stopping the overall trajectory of the reform drive toward centralization and expediency. Certain American institutions and features were adopted to strengthen advisory bodies, improve the personnel administration system, and bolster involved procedures, but these Western elements only served to reinforce the orientation to expediency, standardization, and control (Oh, 2003).

The coup leaders did not clarify or systematize the purposes of their administrative reforms. Nevertheless, their support for big government, the administrative state, and the dictatorial route to development is evident in the strife they faced (Oh, 2003).

 

[1] There are political, economic, and social systematic factors that led to the coup d’état of May 16. First, on the political front, the Jang government of the Second Republic lacked a firm political basis, as the ruling Democratic Party had been deeply divided between the Old Guard and the progressives. Prime Minister Jang envisioned a coalition cabinet enlisting the participation of both sections, but ended up gathering the progressives only as the Old Guard refused his offer for coalition. The progressives also led all four subsequent reforms made in the Cabinet. Second, while the fragmentation of the Old Guard and the conservatives was enough of a threat to the legitimacy of the new government, the revolutionaries and progressives that had been marginalized by the Liberal Party prior to the April Revolution took up politics with zeal, but lost big in the general elections of July 29, thus failing to build a necessary bridge of support for the Jang Cabinet. Third, the success of the April Revolution and the change in power failed to put an end to the pervasive corruption and preferential treatments that had been practiced since the Liberal Party days. Despairing over the fact that they had to continue to struggle with poverty and famine, the people grew all the more desirous of change. Fourth, while Korean society in general was still far from being modern, the unique zeal of Koreans for education had led to an explosive growth of higher-learning institutions nationwide. This, however, produced a great number of college- and university-educated young people without jobs (the so-called “lumpen proletariat”), who sought to release their frustration and anger in political movements (Kim, 1997).

[2] The old political elite, prior to the coup, were landowners, financiers, bureaucrats, and their children who had enjoyed wealth and power since the days of Japanese colonial rule. The coup leaders, however, came to replace these groups as the new elite. The majority of soldiers who took part in the coup had educational or training backgrounds in U.S. military academies, and harbored strong resentment against the existing leaders for their rampant corruption and incompetence. In other words, distrust in the old elite, the hawkish anti-communist sentiment, and the urgent need to fight poverty and hunger were the major psychological factors that motivated these men to take part in the coup. Notwithstanding these visions and promises of transformation, however, many people still felt alienated by the military government. Moreover, the military government tried to coopt and absorb members of the old elite in its early days, thus losing the drive and determination to carry out the reforms it had promised (Seo Junwon, 2007).

[3] Between 1961 and 1963, the number of government employees grew by 17,000 annually on average (Oh, 2003).

 

Source: Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.

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2. Third Republic

 

(1) Background

In October 1962, Park Chunghee, Kim Jongpil, and other leaders of the May 16 coup agreed to dive into civilian politics in an attempt to achieve at least a semblance of democracy. They began to make preparations to launch a new political party, and announced on November 5 the draft of the constitutional amendment signifying the beginnings of the Third Republic, which was passed into law via a popular referendum on December 17[1] (Kim, 1997). This transition from a military government to a civilian one was deemed necessary for keeping revolutionary promises announced at the beginning of the coup. On December 26, 1962, the new Constitution, declaring a presidential system, was promulgated, and followed by the subsequent passage of the Political Parties Act and the Act on the Election of National Assembly Members.

Civilian political activities and assemblies were permitted as of January 1, 1963, and civilian rule was restored. With this new freedom, the people began to mobilize campaigns against Park and other leaders of the coup, while the White House also exerted pressure on the new government. Park, still Chairman of the SCNR, responded by releasing the Statement of Refusal to Participate in the Civilian Government on February 27, the day after the new Democratic Republican Party was established. In the statement, he asserted the legitimacy of the May 16 coup as a “revolution,” vowed not to take vengeance upon his political enemies, and exhorted support for protecting the status and security of government employees lawfully recruited and hired by the “Revolutionary Government.” Park was elected to the presidency in the election held in October, 1963, and his inauguration on December 17 officially marked the dawn of the Third Republic.

 

The issues that took priority during the Third Republic were the normalization of Korea-Japan relations and the dispatching of Korean troops to aid U.S. war efforts in Vietnam. The new Park administration rigorously pursued modernization and economic development as means to consolidate its claim to legitimacy. These two goals, however, required much capital and investment. Strapped for cash, the Republican Party hastily signed the Korea-Japan Agreement and accepted Washington’s request for dispatching troops to Vietnam despite popular and political objections.

 

(2) Purposes of Reforms

The first and foremost value pursued by the Park administration was economic development, buttressed by anti-communism, a Keynesian model of economic planning, and authoritarianism (Lee and Kim, 2004).

 

(3) Main Actors and Means

The leaders of the coup emerged as political powerhouses of the military government, establishing the Democratic Republican Party on February 26, 1963, which went on to win the presidential election in October of that year. For nine years until the emergence of the Yushin System on October 17, 1972, these former coup leaders led the Third Republic (Kim, 1997). At the same time, the election of Park Chunghee, the chief leader of the coup, as President, would exert profound influence on the development of Korean politics. The clout and influence of the coup leaders and their sympathizers was what made it possible for Park to stay in power for so long (Oh, 2003).

 

The Third Republic set up the Investigation Committee for Administrative Reform (ICAR) on June 1, 1964, with a presidential decree; the committee reported directly to the President. The ICAR was granted broad powers, as it was responsible for investigating the reforms and improvements required of all governmental bodies, local government organizations, and government-owned corporations. The ICAR, with one Chairman and 13 vice ministers or equivalents as members, organized seven specialized subcommittees, each of which employed expert researchers and investigators.

 

The ICAR had strong backing from the President and applied its initiatives with gusto in its early days, but it gradually lost impetus over time, and became only nominal years later. In 1966, the Park administration decided to retain the committee for two more years, placing it under the Prime Minister’s supervision and renaming it the Administration Reform Committee. It was abolished in 1981.

 

The installation of a new body specializing in enforcing and overseeing administrative reforms overall signified a fundamental change of approach. The period prior to the emergence of the Third Republic was still embroiled in the messy process of nation building, and was mostly spent on fragmentary and partial reforms, not comprehensive transformation. It was only in the era of the Third Republic that fundamental and systematic efforts began to be made for administrative reform.

 

The ICAR, launched in 1964, had the following objectives. First, it sought to reform the administrative system as a whole to enhance the efficiency of governance and minimize the burden on the people. Second, it pursued improvements in national economic productivity and systematized the management of public corporations. Third, it sought to modernize budget making and accounting processes to assist the government in achieving its goals and aims efficiently. Fourth, it reviewed the necessity of various civil services, and simplified many to improve the convenience of the people. Fifth, it made efforts to eliminate all factors of inefficiency in bureaucratic administration. Sixth, it sought to improve the public personnel administration system in a way that could contribute to the socioeconomic development of the nation. By carrying out all these reform objectives, it hoped to ensure balanced and comprehensive advancement of national administration (Oh, 2007). While the ICAR publicly endorsed such goals as public interests and the balanced growth and development of the nation, its main focus was on enhancing the efficiency and expediency of administration.

 

The rise of the Third Republic meant the transformation of the Korean government from a parliamentary system into a presidential system. The administrative apparatus of the Republic was arranged according to the 11th and final amendment to the Government Organization Act (GOA), and included the President, the Prime Minister, the Vice-Prime Minister who was also the head of the Economic Planning Board, the Cabinet, two administrations, 13 ministries, three departments, six offices, and seven bureaus.

 

The government was reorganized a total of six times during the Third Republic. The first organizational reform entailed the abolition of the People’s Movement Headquarters. The second reform saw the creation of the National Tax Service and the Fishery Products Service. The third reform led to the creation of the Forestry Service. The fourth reform detached the Science and Technology Service from the Ministry of Culture and Education and gave it independent standing and greater authority in an attempt to foster science and technology in Korea. The newly created Science and Technology Service also included the Office of Nuclear Energy. The fifth reform saw the creation of the Territorial Reunification Administration; and the sixth reform ended with the creation of the Customs Service and the Military Affairs Service. 

 

The Korean administrative system continued to grow both in size and in power in the Third Republic, as the ruling elite was intent on forming an administrative state and required an expansive administrative organization  to pursue its economic development plans. The administrative reforms implemented in this era tended to be development-oriented, centralized, and information-controlling. The sizes and functions of administrative bodies kept growing as Korea began to pursue export-oriented industrialization and state-led economic development. State intervention became the norm (Oh, 2003).

 

Given the authoritarian political culture and system of the era, it is no wonder that the rapidly expanding administrative system was controlled and run in a centralized manner. The Blue House stood at the center of power, and was the principal that handed out instructions of reform in a top-down manner. Administrative reforms were thus carried out in a passive manner, without fundamental and concomitant changes in the institutional culture surrounding them (Oh, 2003).


 

[1] An 85.28 percent turnout, with 78.78 percent of the votes cast being in favor.

 

Source: Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.

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3. Fourth Republic

 

(1) Background

As the Third Republic began to lose popularity and support, the ruling elite resorted to yet another coup, this time dubbed “reformatory” rather than revolutionary, in order to consolidate its long-term grip on power. The Park administration declared martial law, and forced a popular referendum into passing a constitutional amendment known as the Yushin Constitution in November 1972. Under the new Constitution, the Council of the Unification-Leading People elected Park, the sole candidate, to the presidency once again, ushering in the Fourth Republic. The Yushin System era is remembered chiefly as one of high economic growth spurred by industrialization strategies centered on heavy and chemical industries (HCIs).

 

The Fourth Republic assigned absolute power to the President. The President was now able to appoint one-third of the members of the National Assembly. In fact, because he also had the power to appoint the members of the governing party, he was in effect able to appoint two-thirds of the National Assembly. As the President also had the power to appoint judges, the Fourth Republic saw an unprecedented level of subjugation of the legislature and the judiciary to the President. Civil and basic rights were routinely curtailed as well.

 

(2) Purposes of Reforms

The Park administration era marked the overall growth of a bureaucracy in the Wilsonian mold in Korea (Lee and Kim, 2004). Within the bounds of national integration, centralization, and authoritarianism, the Yushin System sought to maximize the efficiency of administration and governance. Efficiency here was mainly understood as minimizing the cost of decision-making. This view of efficiency, however, was rife with risks as it could easily lead to wasteful and costly national projects. The Yushin leaders, however, had no problem confusing the higher value of democracy with the lower (technical) value of efficiency, and did not hesitate to sacrifice the democratic procedure in the name of efficiency (Oh, 2003).[1]

 

(3) Main Actors and Means

The ICAR, which had existed in name only in the last days of the Third Republic, was placed under the Prime Minister’s supervision with its guaranteed period of existence revoked. It was later reborn as the Administrative Reform Committee (ARC), which was charged with conducting policy studies and research on required administrative reforms until the late 1980s.

 

Administrative reforms were carried out in a centralized and authoritarian manner in the Fourth Republic as well. The foremost objective of reforms during this era was to legitimize and consolidate the power of the Yushin System. The Yushin government began to implement these reforms in 1975, ostensibly for the purpose of “purifying the officialdom.”

 

The “Officialdom Purification Movement,” as it became known, had an almost unlimited scope and was carried out in a top-down manner almost single-handedly by the President.  The movement did succeed in bringing about some tangible changes, thanks to the President’s strong support and zeal, in its early days, but became less influential by 1979. The movement was centered on an anti-corruption campaign, sparked by the need to eliminate corrupt public projects. The scope of the movement eventually grew over time, however, and almost all public reforms were finally carried out in its name (Oh, 2003).

 

The Park administration defined the Officialdom Purification Movement as “a revolution of the spirit, aimed at eliminating all vestiges of absurdity and corruption in the officialdom, to enable bureaucrats to provide the transparent and efficient services necessary to restore the people’s trust, and to rid the entire Korean society of traces of corruption and inefficiency in promoting the new values of national development and revitalization.” In other words, the movement ultimately served as a propagandistic means for three ostensible ends, namely, bureaucratic renovation, social renovation, and spiritual renovation (Oh, 2003).


 

[1] The Yushin ideology insisted on achieving a “Korean” democracy. Note that the qualifier “Korean” was used only rhetorically to cover up the decline of democracy in Korea then.

 

Source: Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.