Kim Daejung Administration
The Kim Daejung administration, inaugurated in February 1998, marked the first instance in Korea’s constitutional history in which the opposition party came to power. Facing the dire economic crisis that broke out in the last days of the Kim Youngsam administration, however, the new Kim administration was forced to lower the retirement age and lay off government employees in massive numbers.
The GEA was amended (Law 5527) on February 24, 1998, immediately before the new Kim administration got off to its start, in order to “… revitalize the government’s personnel system and improve the efficiency of personnel management in ways that enhance the productivity and competitiveness of public administration” (http://glaw.scourt.go.kr
). Moreover, with the amendment the retirement age was lowered and the standards and procedures of post removal defined, and other shortcomings of the existing law improved.
The arrival of the new Kim administration not only marked the establishment of a truly democratic government, but also accompanied the overhaul of the government organization. The days of the MGA, the body that had served as the central personnel management agency for almost four decades, finally ended, as it was merged with the Ministry of Home Affairs, giving birth to the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (MGAHA). In 1999, the Kim administration partially accepted the long-time demand for greater independence in central personnel management, and set up the Central Personnel Committee (CPC), which reported directly to the President. The CPC then formed one of the two major pillars of personnel administration in the central government, along with the MGAHA. Although the bifurcation of personnel policymaking and implementation would later prove problematic in a number of respects, it nonetheless provided opportunities for systematic research on personnel reforms.
On May 24, 1999, the GEA was again partially amended (Law 5983), in order to create the Central Personnel Committee, under direct supervision of the President, and thereby improve the expertise of public personnel administration and make effective improvements to the personnel decision-making system; provide the legal grounds for introducing an open bureaucratic structure whose competitiveness is enhanced through the recruitment of qualified candidates from both in and outside the bureaucracy for specific jobs; make the improvements necessary for the piecework system; and overcome the shortcomings of the existing law. (http://glaw.scourt.go.kr
The GEA was once again amended (Law 6622) on January 19, 2002 in order to institutionalize and foster exchange with the private sector and thereby improve the expertise and competitiveness of government employees, and to improve the childcare support system for government employees.
Roh Moohyun Administration
The Roh Moohyun administration styled itself as a “Participatory Government.” Participation and the division of power became the centerpieces of the road map for discovering issues throughout Korean society and developing specific solutions. The Innovative Human Resources Management Plan guided efforts for innovation, making the Roh administration the most active of all Korean governments to date in the reform of public personnel management. Personnel-related functions and authorities were again centralized in a single personnel management agency for greater impetus.
A year after the Roh administration’s inauguration, the GEA was partially amended (Law 7187) on March 11, 2004, giving the CPC the authority necessary to shape and implement personnel policy. A subsequent amendment (Law 7380) clarified the terms and conditions for allowing government employees to organize labor unions.
Another partial amendment of the GEA (Law 7407) on March 24, 2005, helped to institutionalize some of the innovations made in the realm of public personnel administration up to that time. The amendment was justified as necessary to provide and improve, through research, the required legal grounds for a position classification system; improve the methods of collecting and managing background information on candidates for public service in a systematic manner; and improve the shortcomings of the existing personnel system so as to allow the promotion of temporary government employees.
A new concept of position classification was thus introduced (Articles 5.10 and 22), while the scope of information to be collected on candidates for government positions was broadened (Article 19.3). Criteria for position analysis were also developed (Article 22.2) and affirmative action was mandated to accord preferential treatment to people with disabilities, those with engineering degrees, etc., and to achieve substantive gender equality in public service (Article 26). Furthermore, new provisions were
added to allow central agencies to hire exemplary and talented candidates from regions outside Korea (Articles 26.4 and 28.2.11). All these measures helped to consolidate the position classification system and balance the personnel policy.
The partial amendment of the GEA (Law 7796) on December 29, 2005, introduced the Senior Executive Service System (SESS). This new system was intended to “ensure, government-wide, the optimal management and assignment of high-ranking officials who head offices and bureaus and play core roles in policymaking; encourage competition and openness among high-ranking officials; and enhance the competence of the government by reinforcing their performance and accountability” (http://glaw.scourt.go.kr
). The main features of the amended GEA included formation of the SESS (Article 2.2); abolition of the higher classes of government employees (Article 4.1); minimization of the scope of personnel subjected to CPC review (Article 7.3); introduction of new grounds for open recruitment positions (Article 28.5); and reinforcement of the pan-governmental management of senior officials and their accountability (Articles 70.1.9 and 70.2).
Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.