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Public Administration

Hiring system 4

Latter Part of the Sixth Republic: Kim Daejung and Roh Moohyun Administrations
 
1. Bureaucratic Culture and Public Personnel Administration
 
February 1998 marks the first time in Korea’s constitutional history that the governing and opposing parties switched places. As the “People’s Government” under President Kim Daejung was inaugurated and the Government Organization Act (GOA) was significantly revised, the Ministry of Government Administration’s three-decade role as the central authority on public personnel administration ended as it was merged with the Ministry of Home Affairs into the new Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (MGAHA). In 1999, the Central Personnel Committee (CPC) came into being as a decision-making body under direct presidential supervision. Public personnel administration thus became divided between the CPC and the MGAHA (Kang et al., 2007: 130). Amendments to the GOA and the GEA in 2004 transferred the MGAHA’s authority over personnel matters to the CPC (Kang et al., 2007: 131-132).

Conformism and an overwhelming emphasis on efficiency characterized the Korean bureaucracy under the authoritarian administrations of the past, while abuses of power were justified in the name of high economic growth. By the time the latter phase of the Sixth Republic arrived, however, the Korean private sector had grown significantly and social values had diversified and pluralized. Income levels continued to rise and the age of knowledge and information began. As the people who had fought for democratic ideals became political and opinion leaders, the process of public personnel administration began to undergo profound transformation. Significant efforts were made toward ensuring competitive and merit-based management of human resources in civil service, with the expertise and management techniques of the private sector introduced and greater efforts made to position civil service as a means of ensuring the fairer distribution of values across society.

Authoritarianism, factionalism, deference to bureaucrats, and subjective idealism defined the bureaucratic culture of the past (Kim, 1981: 215-216; Cho, 1986; Baek, 1989; Ha, 1990: 93-94; Kang et al., 2007: 83-85). However, as the march of globalization and informatization continued at an accelerated pace and society grew increasingly democratic, people’s values, thinking, and attitudes changed profoundly. The Roh Moohyun administration did much to cast away the legacy of authoritarianism and enhance the expertise and professionalism of bureaucrats. The idealistic tendency to emphasize integrity and virtues over professionalism and knowledge also began to wane. The post-baby boomer generations, familiar with the benefits and ills of globalization, material abundance and the rapid progress of knowledge via the Internet, came to replace their predecessors in civil service, bringing into the bureaucratic apparatus materialistic, individualistic, and Western outlooks and worldviews. New public management became the ruling ideology of reforms tried in the public sector. However, the increasing emphasis on performance and merit undermined idealism, and the need for new incentives to motivate government employees grew.
Did the Kim Daejung and Roh Moohyun administrations revolutionize bureaucratic culture in Korea? Tables 2-7 and 2-8 below show the distribution of government employees in Grades 1 through 5 by region of birth/upbringing, and the distribution of government employees in key or preferred posts by region of birth/upbringing, respectively. The key or preferred posts counted in Table 2-8 refer to the 120 popular and high-ranking posts or positions in various ministries and departments. The tables shed light on whether the favoritism and spoils systems of previous governments were lessened by other administrations.
 
<Table 2-7> Distribution of Government Employees (Grades 1-5) by Region of Birth/Upbringing (Jan. 1, 2000)
 
Total Gyeonggi Gangwon Chungcheong Honam Yeongnam Other Remark
15,019 2,586 638 2,621 4,123 4,858 193 Excluding 1,804 who refused to provide information.
100 (%) 17.2 4.2 17.5 27.5 32.3 1.3
Source: CPC, White Paper on Reforms in the Personnel Administration of Government Employees, 2002: 192.
 
<Table 2-8> Distribution of Government Employees in Key Posts by Region of Birth/Upbringing
(Unit: %)
 
Admin. Total Gyeonggi Gangwon Chungcheong Honam Yeongnam Other
Chun, D. 100% 20.5 3.3 12.0 13.9 41.0 9.3
Roh, T. 100% 20.3 3.3 14.9 10.0 44.4 7.0
Kim, Y. 100% 21.7 3.5 16.5 11.0 41.5 5.7
Kim, D. 100% 16.9 3.8 11.9 27.3 38.4 1.7
Source: CPC, White Paper on Reforms in the Personnel Administration of Government Employees, 2002: 192.
 
Table 2-8 reveals that the distribution of government employees in key posts by region of birth/upbringing did not change by more than 5 percent under the Kim Daejung administration. The proportion of officials from Yeongnam and other regions decreased only marginally, while the proportion of those from other regions grew slightly. Officials from Yeongnam occupied over 40 percent of key posts under the preceding Roh Taewoo and Kim Youngsam administrations, but their presence dropped to 38 percent or so under the Kim Daejung administration. On the other hand, the proportion of officials from Honam, which hovered around 10 percent under the two preceding Kim-Roh administrations, rose to 27 percent, comparable to the proportion of Honam-born officials in the five upper echelons of the general bureaucratic apparatus.

The Kim Daejung administration was the first to introduce affirmative action for women into civil service in 1996. Gender quotas were applied to open examinations for higher-level civil servants in public administration and diplomacy, as well as to open tests for selecting Grade 7 officials for administration, internal security, and diplomatic administration (CPC, 2002: 211). The duration of affirmative action for women was extended to 2000 in July 1998 and again to 2002 in April 1999, and its scope was also expanded to include technical positions. The Kim Daejung administration actively encouraged women’s participation and advancement by raising the gender quota in each grade of civil service to 30 percent maximum (CPC, 2002: 213), thus helping women out of their previously marginalized position in society.
 
<Table 2-9> Gender Quotas (for Women)
 
Type 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
(2nd Expanded Plan)
2002
(2nd Expanded Plan)
Grade 5 10% 13% 15% 18%
(Initial target: 20%)
(1st Expanded Plan)
20% 20% 20%
Grades 6 and 7 23% 25%
 
The affirmative action plan for women resulted in the additional employment of 238 women in total: more specifically, 19 (0.6 percent) in 1996; 20 (0.6 percent) in 1997; 14 (0.9 percent) in 1998; 40 (1.9 percent) in 1999; 86 (2.3 percent) in 2000; and 59 (1.5 percent) in 2001. Alternatively, 26 more women entered Grade 5 civil service; 115, Grade 7; and 97, Grade 9 (CPC, 2002: 215).

As the number of children per family continued to decline, the gender divide within the family began to disappear, and increasingly more women looked to increase their social participation. Thanks to the administration’s efforts to accommodate the changing needs of these women and their call for greater social inclusion, the proportion of women in the Korean bureaucracy continued to grow. As of the end of 2000, there were 267,657 women working in all three branches of the government, who together made up 31.5 percent of the entire bureaucracy. The figure represents an increase by 9,300 from the 258,347 women in civil service in 1999 (or 29.7 percent of the whole bureaucracy) (CPC, 2002: 216).

Since 2000, the number of women who have passed civil service examinations has seen a steep rise. It is hardly necessary now to put aside certain numbers of government posts for women, as women increasingly outperform their male counterparts in activities demonstrating merit. What is necessary and important now is to develop and diversify measures that accommodate the difficulties and circumstances particular to women—such as childbirth, childcare and the work-family balance—and assist them in managing their career development so that they may be more easily appointed and promoted to new positions. 
 
 
2. Overview and Characteristics of the Hiring System
 
(1) Personnel Management in the “People’s Government”
 
1) Competition- and performance-oriented personnel management and special recruitment policy for ensuring expertise
Anticipating the transition from an industrial society to an information-based one, the Kim administration stressed competition and performance as the main pillars of civil service personnel management. In addition, it also introduced special recruitment examinations in areas of civil service requiring expertise and professional certifications. These tests were held to screen and select 357 professionals in total, including lawyers, certified public accountants, doctors, and postgraduate degree holders, who were assigned to various ministries and departments (MGAHA, 2000).
 
2) Lowering the retirement age to promote turnover
The GEA (Law 5527), partially amended on February 24, 1998, lowered the retirement age, defined the criteria and procedures for removing government employees from their posts, and made other minor changes, thereby addressing the shortcomings of the previous law and promoting turnover, productivity, and competitiveness in civil service. Under the amended GEA, the term “professional government employee” was changed to “contract-based government employee,” while the scope of work handled by these contract-based government employees broadened (Article 2.3.3). The amended law also defined the criteria and procedures for removing government employees from posts that have either been eliminated or reduced due to the reorganization of the government or budget constraints. Government employees thus removed from their posts were promised preferences in re-hiring (Articles 28.3 and 70). Performance evaluations were required to be conducted in the most objective and rigorous manner possible, and it became possible for government employees to be removed from their posts for faring poorly on such evaluations (Articles 51.1 and 51.2). In the meantime, the retirement ages of all types of government employees were lowered by one year. Nevertheless, those who were scheduled to retire on June 30, 1998, and December 31, 1998, due to the change in the retirement age were allowed to stay in their jobs for six and three months, respectively (repealing Article 74.1 of the previous GEA and adding Article 3.1 to the Supplementary Provisions). The retirement age could no longer be extended for government employees at Grade 6 and lower, while the already extended retirement ages were revoked (repealing Article 74.3 and adding Article 3.2 to the Supplementary Provisions). Under the amended GEA, however, government employees who had worked in civil service for less than 20 years were also made eligible for retirement allowances within the parameters of the given budget, so long as (a) their posts were eliminated or reduced due to governmental reorganization or budget reasons, and (b) they voluntarily retired before reaching their retirement age (Article 74.2.2).
 
(2) Dividing Personnel Management between the MGAHA and the CPC (1999 – 2004)
 
1) Appointment screening and open posts
(i) Appointment screening by the CPC for enhancing the fairness of the recruitment process
Those who were authorized to appoint government employees or nominate candidates to positions at Grade 3 or higher were now required to select their candidates for hiring and promotion according to the standards and procedures determined by the CPC, and submit their nominees for screening by the CPC (Article 7.4, newly added to the amended GEA).
 
(ii) Designating open posts
In an effort to improve the competitiveness of government employees, the amended GEA now provided for open posts, i.e., posts in civil service open to qualified candidates drawn from both in and outside the bureaucracy. Remunerations for government employees were also made flexible and proportional to performance. The government, moreover, was now able to designate open posts requiring certain professional qualifications and expertise so that competent candidates in or outside the bureaucracy had the opportunity to occupy those posts. Accordingly, all contract-based (professional) government employees were now appointed to these open posts. Persons authorized to appoint or nominate candidates for appointment to these open posts were required to decide the job descriptions of these posts and find qualified candidates accordingly.
 
2) Leave of absence to work in the private sector, flexible work hours, and fewer nationality limits
The GEA was again amended in part (Law 6622) on January 19, 2002 in order to enhance the ability of government employees to lead national development while adapting to the rapid social changes of the new century. The amended law broadened the range of the competitive recruitment process, and allowed government employees to take leaves of absence to work in the private sector so that the increasingly more advanced management techniques of the private sector could flow into public administration. Moreover, the amended GEA improved maternity and childcare leaves in an effort to provide more support for female government employees.

The head of each government agency or organization was also allowed, in light of the specific needs and circumstances of his or her organization, to hire people to work shorter hours than government employees in general. Moreover, the government was now able to hire non-Koreans for certain posts in research, engineering, and education that had little to do with national security or classified information. All these efforts were made to ensure the greater measures of flexibility and openness in civil service necessary to help the bureaucracy manage globalization and better accompany changes.
 
3) Enhancing the power of the National Assembly to hold confirmation hearings and inspections
The GEA, amended again (Law 6855) on February 4, 2003, included new provisions regarding the hiring and appointment of government employees. For one, the range of candidates to be subjected to the National Assembly’s confirmation hearings was broadened to include nominees for such positions as the head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Public Prosecutor General. The power of the National Assembly to hold inspections of the government’s activities also increased. Presidents-elect were now able to request confirmation hearings of Prime Minister candidates. The chairperson of the National Assembly would then discuss with the representatives of various groups within the National Assembly and organize a special committee for confirmation hearings (Article 46.3.1, newly added). Moreover, the Standing Committee on Jurisdictions, part of the National Assembly, could now organize confirmation hearings of the President’s nominees for key posts, including the head of the NIS, the head of the National Tax Service, the Public Prosecutor General, and the chief of police (Article 65.2.2, newly added).
 
4) Limits of the dual personnel management system
Dividing power over personnel management between the MGAHA and the CPC inevitably led to serious problems, such as the delay and distortion of personnel reforms. The separation of policymaking power and the power of execution made it difficult to sustain the determination and spirit of reform on sites of public personnel administration (Kang et al., 2007: 131-132).
 
(3) Era of the CPC
Buttressing the bureaucratic structure in Korea was the open and competitive system of recruitment, a strictly hierarchical structure limiting upward mobility, a system that rendered civil service a “lifelong career field,” and the preference for laypeople with talent over professionals. However, a series of watershed changes began to take place in this structure as Korea made the transition from the “People’s Government” to the “Participatory Government,” and the emphasis on the need to open up the public sector and ensure its competitiveness, expertise, and competence grew. In particular, the centralization of public personnel administration in the CPC under the Roh administration gave rise to a series of momentous reforms.
 
1) Efforts to enhance expertise and abolish discrimination in civil service
The personnel reforms made during this era included numerous attempts at enhancing expertise and professionalism in civil service, particularly by introducing a position classification system and conducting duty analysis. Moreover, affirmative action was provided for people with disabilities, people with backgrounds in sciences and engineering, women, and people from regions outside Seoul-Gyeonggi, thus improving the representativeness of civil service.

The GEA was once again amended in part (Law 7407) on March 24, 2005, to introduce a new position classification system. Provisions were added and improved to support duty analysis. The system of gathering and managing background information on nominees for high-ranking positions was also improved, while the promotion of government employees dispatched to the private sector or abroad was also made possible. Major changes included: (i) the introduction of the position classification system (Article 5.10, newly added, and Article 22); (ii) improvement and expansion of the system for gathering and managing information on nominees for public positions (Article 19.3); (iii) new provisions for duty analysis (Article 22.2, newly added); (iv) preferences for people with disabilities and people with engineering/science backgrounds, and measures for substantive gender equality (Article 26, newly added); (v) provisions for the special hiring of qualified people from regions outside Seoul-Gyeonggi (Article 26.4, newly added, and Article 28.2.11); and (vi) authorization for the dispatch of government employees to the private sector or abroad (Article 43.2).[1]
 
2) Introduction of the Senior Executive Service System
The amendment of the GEA (Law 7796) on December 29, 2005, was intended to ensure better management of high-ranking government employees who headed offices and bureaus and were already playing pivotal roles in policymaking. Changes were made upon the introduction of the new Senior Executive Service System (SESS) so as to encourage the openness and competition of the bureaucracy, and enhance the accountability of these higher officials, all toward the ultimate purpose of improving the competence and capability of the government.

The specific changes accompanying the introduction of the SESS are as follows.

First, the SESS primarily consisted of the heads of central administrative agencies, offices, bureaus, and their equivalents who handled difficult and complex jobs and bore responsibility. The SESS also included specially appointed government employees who were recruited according to laws different from the GEA that governed the management of general, special, and contract-based government employees. The makeup of the SESS was intended to ensure greater efficiency in the management of senior officials government-wide.

Second, the grade system dividing government employees in the SESS was abolished (according to Article 4.1, newly added).

Third, the scope of government employees to be hired and evaluated by the CPC was reduced (Article 7.3). Government employees at Grades 1 through 3 and their special and contract-based counterparts were formerly required to undergo the CPC’s evaluation and review before being appointed or promoted. Senior officials making up the SESS, however, were now required to undergo the CPC’s evaluation and review only when they were newly appointed to join the SESS. Once they joined the ranks of high-ranking officials, their respective ministries and departments wielded greater authority over them than the CPC did.

Fourth, the amended GEA also provided new provisions for the public recruitment of senior officials (Article 28.5). For more efficient policymaking and management, various ministries and departments could not publicly search for and recruit qualified candidates either from their midst or from outside. The head of the CPC was given new power to coordinate the arrangement of human resources among various ministries and departments so as to prevent the concentration of people from certain ministries and departments in key positions.

Fifth, senior officials were now made subject to a pan-governmental system of personnel management (Article 32.1). The heads of ministries and departments were now able to nominate candidates for SESS positions outside their respective organizations.

Sixth, the accountability of government employees was enhanced (Articles 70.1.9 and 70.2, newly added). Government employees in the SESS were to undergo qualification evaluations every five years. Those whose performance evaluations produced the lowest level of scores for two consecutive years, or for three (non-consecutive) years in total, and those who failed to secure assignment to specific positions in two years or longer could now be removed from their posts, pending the findings of qualification evaluations.
 
 
[1] This last change was made to address a key problem of the government employee dispatch system. Prior to this change, government employees who had been dispatched for long periods were effectively barred from hopes of stepping up the ladder of the bureaucratic hierarchy no matter how talented and competitive they were as government employees. The amended GEA now required government organizations to fill the internal positions left vacant by dispatched officials by hiring new ones or promoting the dispatched officials to higher positions so that the required turnover could be made. In other words, government employees could now receive promotion even while being dispatched, and new people could be hired to fill their vacancies.

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