Fifth and Sixth Republics
The Chun Doohwan administration partially amended the GEA (Law 34447) on April 20, 1981, bringing the merit system, administrative expertise, and efficiency to the forefront as the most important principles in personnel decisions. Moreover, the new law divided the bureaucratic hierarchy into nine, not five, pay grades.
The amendment was justified as necessary to establish a fair system of managing promotions and job assignments among government employees based on the merit system; reinforce institutions to foster the expertise and efficiency of administration; and strengthen the protection of hardworking government employees’ social status, thereby achieving a civil service system that is more suited to Korean conditions and circumstances. (http://glaw.scourt.go.kr
The new GEA divided the jobs of government employees between those requiring bureaucratic work experience and others requiring work experience outside the bureaucratic apparatus. The previous five-grade hierarchical system was further divided into nine grades. Government employees could no longer be removed from their posts for reasons of incompetence. Those removed from their posts had to be assigned to new positions or otherwise be subjected to disciplinary actions (as determined by the disciplinary committee) within three months. A new complaint handling system was introduced. Capability and performance became chief criteria in determining government employees’ promotions. Position management became integral to civil service, thus enhancing expertise and stability by assigning government employees to the most fitting positions.
Although the constitutional amendment of 1987 reintroduced the direct presidential election system, the nature of the Roh Taewoo administration and its way of handling public personnel administration were more akin to its predecessor. However, the Roh administration sought to raise the retirement age of government employees at Grade 6 or below to secure a greater pool of expert government employees in anticipation of the changes in the administrative environment. The GEA was once again amended (Law 4384) on May 31, 1991 to reinforce various systems protecting government employees’ social status, and to enable them to actively adapt to new changes likely to take place in the 21st century and in doing so increase their effectiveness as public servants. The amended law also raises the retirement age of senior government employees in the lower grades in line with the aging of Korean society, and improves the special recruitment system so as to infuse the bureaucracy with diverse types of expertise, thereby consolidating and advancing the civil service system as a whole. (http://glaw.scourt.go.kr)
Kim Youngsam Administration
The Kim Youngsam administration marked the first “Civilian Government” in a long time, putting an end to the era of military governments. The MGA continued to reign as the central personnel management agency, but it lacked the capability to institutionalize the necessary reforms. The personnel administration system during this period managed merely to improve the expertise and welfare of government employees, and make attempts at introducing a piecework system with the aim of improving the competitiveness of the bureaucracy.
The Kim administration amended the GEA (Law 4829) on December 22, 1994 to improve the official promotion examination system in order to foster a hardworking atmosphere throughout the bureaucracy; provide bonuses and financial incentives for government employees with excellent performance records; provide government employees with opportunities to take childcare and other family-related leaves to better foster the work, family, and health balance; better protect the status and rights of government employees by making it difficult for them to be removed from their posts; and make improvements upon other shortcomings of the existing law. (http://glaw.scourt.go.kr
The GEA was once again amended (Law 5452) on December 13, 1997 in order to enhance the competitiveness and expertise of the bureaucracy as demanded by the rapid changes taking place in the administrative environment. The amended GEA now detailed that civilian experts be recruited to public service on a temporary basis, and that the scope of government employees with professional qualifications be broadened. These were both efforts to enhance the expertise of the bureaucracy and increase the flexibility of the government employee management system.
Whereas professionals could be recruited as government employees only for the tasks of research and engineering in the past, the newly amended law allowed government organizations to recruit professionals and specialists to all areas requiring expertise (Article 2.3.3). Moreover, the law now allowed government organizations to specially recruit persons with excellent language skills and global experience, with a view to improving Korea’s international relations (Article 28.2.8). In the meantime, the limited promotion system, applied in the past only to experts of languages and other specially hired government employees, was abolished (Article 28.4). Civilian experts and professionals could now be recruited, on a temporary basis, to carry out special projects or tasks of national programs that required expertise (Article 32.4.1). Government employees temporarily working at universities and research institutions in Korea or abroad could also take leaves of absence from their official jobs (Article 71.2.1). Moreover, government employees could opt to work or study abroad, along with their spouses, for up to three years. Government employees studying or training abroad could extend their leave of absence by up to two years (Articles 71.2.6 and 72.5). All these new measures were introduced to improve the quality of human resources in the Korean bureaucracy in anticipation of the changes ushered in by globalization.
Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.