First and Second Republics
The Government Employees Act (GEA, Law 44), enacted on August 12, 1949, provided the much-needed institutional foundation for establishing the framework of a modern state in the turbulent years of the Rhee Syngman administration. The GEA contains 53 articles in total and has several chapters, including General Provisions (Chapter 1), Appointments and Civil Service Examinations (Chapter 2), Remunerations (Chapter 3), Service (Chapter 4), Protecting Government Employees’ Social Status (Chapter 5), Discipline (Chapter 6), and Punishments (Chapter 7), and includes three supplementary provisions. The legislation divides government employees between those who have been appointed and those who have passed civil service examinations. Government employees are also divided along five pay grades. The GEA, at least on the surface, endorses the merit principle by requiring that government employees be hired on the basis of their performance on civil service examinations or other equivalent forms of screening. Exceptionally, people who contributed to Korea’s independence movement prior to its liberalization were given preferential screening. The Act also defined the basic terms and conditions of remunerations and service, required the protection of government employees’ social status, and defined specific disciplinary actions and penalties to be imposed on government employees should the situation demand it.
The foregoing description makes the GEA sound more democratic and meritocratic than it actually was. The law, in fact, was more or less a direct translation of an imperial order from Japanese colonialists with slightly more democratic rhetoric added to it. It caused numerous problems in application (Park, 1996: 73-74). Furthermore, the law’s actual effect was limited due to the decline in authority and power of the Ministry of Government Administration (MGA), the central agency responsible for running the public administration personnel system (according to the GEA and under the Prime Minister’s supervision) (Kim, 2003: 9).
After the GEA was partially amended (Law 103) on March 3, 1950,
another decade passed before any systematic progress was made. Although the Second Republic came to power with the more democratic Jang Myeon administration after Rhee stepped down from the presidency in the aftermath of the April Revolution of 1960, the new republic simply did not last long enough to achieve substantive progress.
The amendment recognized the experience of those who had passed higher civil service examinations overseas, including it as part of the criteria used to determine career/seniority level.
Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.