Sub-Theme 2 | Public Service Ethics Training
Goals and Types
Public service ethics training is the most conspicuous feature of the Korean training program for government officials. In the period of economic development in particular, the Korean government emphasized public service ethics training accompanied by knowledge and skills transfer.
Public service ethics training had two goals: to secure the support of government officials in order to maintain control over government administration; and to change the public servant mindset. From the military government onwards each political regime continued public service ethics training under various banners. Below is an excerpt from a training textbook for mid-level officials which emphasizes the value of public service ethics training.
[Figure 2. Excerpt from Training Textbook for Mid-level Officials]
Mission of Government Officials and Discipline
As government officials we are confident in our responsibility as guides of national restoration. If we perceive a government position as a means of living only, we will fail to invest the energy and empathy needed to advance the country. And with that thinking we may indulge in corruption in order to make atonement for needed money because a government position is not a lucrative job. When we as government officials take the lead in national restoration, our futures will be bright.
Needless to say, government administration exists only for the people’s interest and happiness, and the master of government administration is the people. Government officials are qualified delegates—those who are entrusted by the people as public authorities. Government officials are public servants who work for the people.
Public service ethics training was provided in three ways. First, it was operated as a separate program independent from other training programs under various banners in each government: Anti-communism Training in the Third Republic; Saemaul Training
([Figure 3]) in the Fourth Republic; and Ideological Training in the Fifth Republic.
[Figure 3. Example of Saemaul Training Program]
Second, it was included in job training programs. For example, Saemaul Training took up more than 20 percent of class hours of all training courses in the 1970s. Such training included courses like “Analysis of Corruption in the Public Administration of the Previous Government” during the period of the military government; and the “International Situation and Defeat of Communism” and the “Mission and Discipline of Government Officials” during the Fourth Republic.
Third, field activities were utilized to provide public service ethics training. For example, trainees would be grouped into several teams with each team working together on a team project (for example, [Figure 4]). Trainees in the grade-based basic job training program undertook field visits to rural areas, industrial complexes, and historical sites as well as to other government offices. These activities helped to cultivate the public servant mindset of trainees and provided deeper understanding of the processes involved in the development and practice of government policies.
[Figure 4. Candle Ceremony with Group of Trainees]
Though the course names differed according to the administration, the goal of public service ethics training was basically the same: garner the loyalty of government officials in order to realize the policy agenda of individual governments, and imbue government officials with the public servant mindset.
Because securing political legitimacy was also an aim of public service ethics training, it was often exploited to justify undemocratic political regimes. Even so, public service ethics training significantly contributed to the capacity building of government officials in the following aspects.
It was very effective in forming esprit de corps, loyalty to the nation, and a sense of mission among government officials. The Korean government could retain high caliber people armed with a public servant mindset through continuous public service ethics training.
In addition, by executing government-wide public service ethics training, individual governments could tighten organizational discipline and secure the intangible resources required for initiating policy agendas. For each government, public service ethics training was a useful communication channel to justify the importance of major policies and mobilize government officials to push forward such policies.