Public Safety Administration 1
Analysis of Organizational and Functional Evolution of the Korean Police
1. First Republic
(1) Organizational Changes
The first government of Korea, helmed by President Rhee Syngman, inherited mostly intact the administrative organization of the U.S. Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK). The Department of Police, however, was downgraded to the Public Safety Bureau in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), although its personnel and staff remained more or less the same. The process of enacting the National Government Organization Act (NGOA) sparked sharp debate on the floor of the National Assembly over whether to grant the Department of Police institutional independence or downsize the organization. The members finally voted to repeal the proposal for independence (Lee et al.
, 1968). Presidential Decree 18 of November 4, 1948, led to the creation of the general management, security, economics, surveillance, investigation instruction, forensics, communication, policewomen, and fire divisions in the Public Safety Bureau (NPA, 1995). A number of changes were made in the role of the police with its reorganization. First, whereas the USAMGIK, with its liberal policy, had abolished the economic control function of the police agency that had been introduced by the Japanese colonial regime, the Rhee administration restored that function, creating the Economic Division as part of the police organization. Second, the Policewomen Division, created by the USAMGIK to reform its political image and emphasize the police organization’s role as a servant of the people, remained intact even after the overall Police Bureau was downsized. Third, the Fire Division was installed as part of the Police Bureau, thus integrating the formerly separated police and firefighting functions. Fourth, the Police Bureau retained its communication function, as public communication had emerged as quite an important issue amid the social chaos of the USAMGIK’s rule. Fifth, the forensics component of the investigation organization under the USAMGIK was given an independent division of its own as part of efforts to end the use of torture tactics in investigations and show greater to respect human rights. The First Republic saw seven division-level reforms in total, as shown in Figure 2-1.
[Figure 2-1] Organizational Changes in the Police in the First Republic
The Economic Division was abolished in July 1949, while police education and training, formerly handled by the General Management Division, was transferred to the newly created Training Division in September of the same year. The fire and policewomen divisions were abolished by April 1950, with their functions absorbed by the single Security Division. Police officers were converted into combat soldiers when the Korean War broke out, and the War Supplies Division was set up in July 1950 for distribution of military supplies to police officers. The Security Guard Division came into being after the end of the Korean War to handle matters related to security guards and the combat police force, and the Intelligence Investigation Division was separated into the special intelligence and the investigation divisions to improve investigatory processes. The wartime system came to an end in 1955, at which time the War Supplies Division was abolished and its tasks and roles transferred to the Security Guard Division (in February of that year). The main features of police organization reforms during the First Republic can be summarized as follows. First, combat became an important function of the police due to the outbreak of the Korean War, and the combat police force was kept intact even after the war ended. Not only were new divisions for war supplies and security guards created, but the Public Safety Bureau also became semi-militarized, with the addition of several new organizational features such as the Railway Police Unit, the Taebaek-Jiri Mountains Combat Command Headquarters, the Southwestern District Police Station, and the like.
Second, the concept of police work as a form of “service,” embodied by the policewomen and firefighting divisions first introduced by the USAMGIK, came to all but disappear. Though the Policewomen Division, in particular, performed valuable community services during the time of its existence, including the instruction of women and housewives, the education of delinquent youth, the assurance of public decency and morality, and the protection of the elderly, the infirm and others in need, it was ultimately closed down without much effect (Lee, 1968, 225).
Third, the police came to exert a greater influence on politics through its surveillance and special intelligence divisions. The latter, in particular, had three subdivisions and its own central office. Subdivision 2 was tasked with gathering intelligence and information on the political and electoral activities of National Assembly members, political parties, religious organizations, public institutes, and citizens in general, as well as on elections, the publication of banned books and texts, and other anti-national and illegal activities (MHA Public Safety Bureau, 1973, 601).
Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.