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Republic of Korea Action Plan Review 2021-2023

This product consists of an IRM review of the Republic of Korea’s 2021–2023 action plan. The action plan is made up of 14 of commitments, evaluated as 16 commitments in this report to reflect distinct milestones 2.1, 2.2, 4.1, and 4.2. To aid clarity and assessment, the IRM clusters 2.1 and 2.2, as well as 4.1 and 4.2. This review analyzes the strength of the action plan to contribute to implementation and results. For commitment-by-commitment data, see Annex 1. For details regarding the methodology and indicators used by the IRM for this Action Plan Review, see Section IV: Methodology and IRM Indicators.

Overview of the 2021–2023 Action Plan

This action plan was developed through online engagement and mostly reflects government-proposed initiatives. While overall ambition is limited, the plan includes new policy areas such as participatory budgeting and social and digital inclusion. Effective implementation will require leadership by implementing agencies and strengthened CSO participation.

AT A GLANCE

Participating since: 2011

Action plan under review: 2021–2023

IRM product: Action Plan Review

Number of commitments: 16

Overview of commitments:

  • Commitments with an open gov. lens: 14 (88%)
  • Commitments with substantial potential for results: 2 (13%)
  • Promising commitments: 3

Policy areas

Carried over from previous action plans:

  • Citizen engagement in policy making
  • Open data

Emerging in this action plan:

  • Social inclusion
  • Participatory budgeting
  • Whistleblower protections

Compliance with OGP minimum requirements for co-creation:

  • Acted according to OGP process: Yes

The Republic of Korea joined the OGP in 2011. This report evaluates the design of the Republic of Korea’s fifth action plan. It includes 14 commitments, evaluated as 16 commitments in this report to reflect distinct milestones. The action plan is organized into three priority areas: strengthening civic space and public participation; tackling corruption; and promoting inclusive digital innovation. Two commitments have substantial potential for results. Compared to the previous action plan, commitment design reflects greater specificity. To aid clarity and assessment, this report clusters commitments related to social inclusion (2.1 and 2.2) and participatory budgeting (4.1 and 4.2).

This action plan was developed through online engagement and mostly reflects government-proposed initiatives. Through the public consultation process, the government received 140 proposals that were later reviewed by the Open Government Forum Korea (OGFK), the country’s multistakeholder forum. However, most of the final commitments were suggested by government agencies. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all OGFK activities were conducted online.[1] Budget and time for deliberation were some of the challenges that affected the inclusion of more CSO proposals on the final plan. The OGFK mandate did not ensure strong participation by implementing agencies. Recently, the OGFK institutional framework was upgraded from the ministerial to prime ministerial level, aiming to strengthen both the implementation and co-creation processes in the current and future action plan cycles.[2]

This action plan carries forward previous commitments on open data and citizen engagement in policy making. Some potentially transformative policy areas, such as disclosing court decisions and transparent beneficial ownership, were left out of the action plan as the OGFK could not determine which government agencies would be responsible for implementation. In terms of emerging policy areas, the action plan introduces new commitments on social inclusion, participatory budgeting, and whistleblower protection.

The action plan offers promising opportunities for progress on participatory budgeting and whistleblower protection. Commitments 4.1 and 4.2 could substantially improve participatory budgeting processes. They could broaden the national Participatory Budgeting Citizens’ Committee and contribute to the uptake of participatory budgeting among local governments. Commitment 6 could modestly strengthen whistleblower protection by guaranteeing confidentiality and providing financial support.

Most of the action plan’s commitments have modest potential for results. Proposed initiatives like the commitment on citizen engagement in policymaking (Commitment 3) continue existing government policies, but do not clarify to what degree they intend to introduce new initiatives. For some commitments, concretizing milestones and indicators could improve potential impact. To illustrate, Commitment 9 offers a critical opportunity to institutionalize civil society engagement in policymaking, but would benefit from clearly delineating the scope and intended outcomes of the planned civil society committee and ordinance. Other commitments have weak relevance to OGP values. Commitment 10, for example, aims to promote digital inclusion through expanding access to internet and training on digital skills. While the commitment can contribute to other action plan initiatives, it does not directly leverage planned improvements in digital access to facilitate citizen-government engagement or access to government information.

Likewise, Commitments 2.1 and 2.2, aimed at enhancing employment of women and people with disabilities, could more fully articulate their open government lens. While the commitments incorporate some information disclosure, they could strengthen opportunities for participation by focusing on mechanisms for women and people with disabilities to play an active role in policymaking. Both initiatives represent important steps to guaranteeing inclusion of these traditionally marginalized groups in the public and private sectors. The commitments’ implementation would benefit from specifying the planned methods to improve job candidates’ preparation, broaden recruitment, and ensure advancement. A working group of government ministries, participating private sector institutions, and CSOs could be fruitful in identifying barriers to recruitment or advancement of women and people with disabilities, and in offering solutions that could be tried and tested across sectors.

Commitment 11 could broaden its scope as it continues a Ministry of Interior and Safety initiative on participatory responses to local issues using science and information and communication technology (ICT). In 2020, eight local governments collaborated with CSOs on projects,[3] with ten additional projects planned under the commitment.[4] Although the commitment does not substantially expand the number of projects, it does introduce Self-Solving Groups and Living Labs as new mechanisms for participation.[5] Self-Solving Groups can include residents’ concerns in projects, while Living Labs are oriented toward promoting, applying, and spreading technology. Clearly defined roles for each of the participating groups, particularly regarding project selection, can ensure full citizen participation in raising issues and exploring solutions. To address potential barriers to participation for vulnerable populations, the projects could incorporate CSOs that work directly with these populations.

Effective implementation of the action plan will require leadership by implementing agencies and strengthened CSO participation. To support continuity of commitments in cases of staff turnover, implementing agencies will need to ensure proper transfer of institutional knowledge about the open government process, as well as continued engagement with CSOs, communities of practice, and beneficiaries of the action plan’s initiatives.

Promising Commitments in the Republic of Korea’s 2021–2023 Action Plan

The following review looks at the three commitments that the IRM identified as having the potential to realize the most promising results. This review will inform the IRM’s research approach to assess implementation in the Results Report. The IRM Results Report will build on the early identification of potential results from this review to contrast with the outcomes at the end of the implementation period of the action plan. This review also analyzes challenges, opportunities, and recommendations to contribute to the learning and implementation process of this action plan.

Table 1. Promising commitments

Promising Commitments
4.1 and 4.2. Participatory budgeting: These commitments would improve the national participatory budgeting system by strengthening the Citizens’ Committee, and would support local governments’ adapting participatory budgeting tools to their specific context and needs.
6. Protect whistleblowers: This commitment would bolster whistleblower confidentiality guarantees and provide financial support for expenses related to whistleblowing.

[1] Government of the Republic of Korea, OGP The 5th National Action Plan 2021–2023 Korea (OGP, Jul. 2021), https://bit.ly/3zIDVN6.

[2] Min. of the Interior and Safety, questionnaire by IRM, 7 Feb. 2022.

[3] Jihwan Park (OpenNet), correspondence with IRM, 13 Feb. 2022.

[4] Min. of the Interior and Safety Public Engagement Division and Min. of Science and ICT Space and Big Science Policy Division, questionnaire by IRM, 7 Feb. 2022.

[5] Ohyeon Kweon (Code for Korea), interview by IRM, 21 Feb. 2022.

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