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South Korea

Enhancing Information Disclosure (KR0019)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: South Korea Second Action Plan for 2014-2016

Action Plan Cycle: 2014

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: NA

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Public Participation, Records Management, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: South Korea End of Term Report 2014-2016

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation , Public Accountability

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Since late March in 2014, any government documents signed by director generals or higher have ben disclosed no mater whether they are requested to be disclosed or not. Those documents are uploaded on information disclosure portal (open.go.kr). However, in acordance with the Public Information Act, documents that contain private information (8 items) must not be disclosed. At he end of May, about 80,00 original documents were disclosed, and the range of documents to be disclosed wil be expanded from 2015. To be specific, even those documents signed by directors wil be disclosed, which wil result in 10 milion documents to be disclosed anualy. In order to make sure the shared information met the demands of civil society, the Ministry of Security and Public Administration (MOSPA) wil form a citzen watch group that overses the proces of information disclosure by the end of June 2014, and the watch group is composed of civil society members, experts, and other ordinary
citzens. The watch group members were selected through an online contest among those who were interested in disclosure of information, and those who had most actively requested for disclosure of information became the members of the group. This group wil be responsible for reviewing how disclosure of information is conducted in the central government agencies as wel as local governments and monitoring the performance of each agency by requesting disclosure of information
themselves. Another goal to be met in 2014 is to improve the quality of disclosed information. To
do so, the Korean government wil anounce in advance the list of to-be-disclosed information categorized under ten specific areas of high interest (health, welfare, food safety, child-rearing, finance, education, consumer protection, leisure, job, and housing).

IRM End of Term Status Summary

II. Improving Civil Service Integrity

Commitment 2c. Enhance Information Disclosure

Commitment Text:
Since late March in 2014, any government documents signed by director generals or higher have been disclosed no matter whether they are requested to be disclosed or not. Those documents are uploaded on information disclosure portal (open.go.kr). However, in accordance with the Public Information Act, documents that contain private information (8 items) must not be disclosed. At the end of May, about 80,000 original documents were disclosed, and the range of documents to be disclosed will be expanded from 2015. To be specific, even those documents signed by directors will be disclosed, which will result in 100 million documents to be disclosed annually.

In order to make sure the shared information meet the demands of civil society, the Ministry of Security and Public Administration (MOSPA) will form a citizen watch group that oversees the process of information disclosure by the end of June 2014, and the watch group is composed of civil society members, experts, and other ordinary citizens. The watch group members were selected through an online contest among those who were interested in disclosure of information, and those who had most actively requested for disclosure of information became the members of the group. This group will be responsible for reviewing how disclosure of information is conducted in the central government agencies as well as local governments and monitoring the performance of each agency by requesting disclosure of information themselves.

Another goal to be met in 2014 is to improve the quality of disclosed information. To do so, the Korean government will announce in advance the list of to-be-disclosed information categorized under ten specific areas of high interest (health, welfare, food safety, child-rearing, finance, education, consumer protection, leisure, job, and housing).

Editorial Note: Three milestones were derived from this commitment:

1. Expand the number of disclosed documents in 2015 to 100 million documents disclosed annually.

2. A citizens' watch group, decided through an online contest, will oversee information disclosure.

3. Improve the quality of disclosed information by 2014 after announcing a list of data to be disclosed under ten "areas of high interest."

Responsible institution: Ministry of the Interior

Commitment Aim:

This commitment aims to enhance information access by expanding the number of annually disclosed documents (milestone 2.c.1), creating a citizen watch group for oversight of information disclosure (milestone 2.c.2), and improving the quality of information disclosed (milestone 2.c.3).

 At the starting point of the commitment, the government had already passed the Open Data Act of October 2013, which dramatically shifted disclosure rules to proactively release documents signed by director generals whether or not a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request had been submitted. More specifically this commitment set out to

1.   Expand the quality and scope of government disclosures with an emphasis on ten areas of “high interest,” such as health, food safety and education (milestones 2.c.1 and 2.c.3)

2.   Improve citizen oversight over the process of disclosure through the establishment of a civil society watch group (milestone 2.c.2)

Note: There is some discrepancy related to “information disclosure” and “data disclosure.” According to the government, information disclosure regulations are enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act which defines information as “documents that public institutions write or acquire and manage for public affairs.” Data is separately categorized as “documents or information processed in an electronic manner that public institutions write or acquire and manage.” However, the Open Data Act (2013)[Note 24: Ministry of Legislation, “Open Data Act,” 2013 ,http://www.law.go.kr/lsInfoP.do?lsiSeq=179039&efYd=20160407#0000%5D defines open data as “Any document/material or information produced or obtained and managed by a public institution for the purposes designated by the law, that has been processed electronically or photographically, such as a database, digitized file etc, including Administrative Information.[Note 25: Ministry of Legislation, “E-government Act,” Definition of Administrative Information:

http://www.law.go.kr/%EB%B2%95%EB%A0%B9/%EC%A0%84%EC%9E%90%EC%A0%95%EB%B6%80%EB%B2%95/%EC%A0%9C2%EC%A1%B0%5D While the government intended for commitment 2c to address disclosure of government documents and for commitment 3e to focus on improving data-sharing, this commitment is ambiguous as written and does not clearly define how documents will be managed and made accessible online to increase transparency. 

Status

Mid-term: Limited
After announcing the Government 3.0 policy in June 2013 and subsequently passing the Open Data Act in October 2013, the government took a number of steps to improve information disclosure. Particularly welcome was the Park administration’s decision to switch disclosure of non-sensitive information to be open by default. In its public data road map, the government planned to release 60% of source documents by 2017. However, progress on expanding the amount of information released (2.c.1.), was limited. While the government assessed that it was on track to meet the goal of 100 million disclosures annually by 2015, stakeholders such as OpenNet pointed out that the numbers may have been misleading. The government releases local and provincial datasets separately from national datasets, but all have similar content, allowing the government to essentially count the same dataset more than once. (Further information regarding this concern is also covered in commitment 3e.)

As of June 2015, the government stated fifty citizens had been chosen to be part of the citizen watch group (2.c.2). However, it was not clear how these citizens were selected or how the group exercised oversight on information disclosure. The IRM Researcher could not locate information in Korean or English on a government announcement of the information to be disclosed under ten planned areas (Milestone 2.c.3), resulting in limited completion.[Note 26: Open Government Partnership. “South Korea 2014-2015 IRM Progress Report,” pp. 27-31.]

 

End of term: Limited

2.c.1 Expand the number of documents disclosed (Limited)

Completion for this commitment is difficult to verify, given inconsistencies in the government’s reported goals and benchmarks. While stakeholders and the government self-assessment report agree that the government has improved transparency, reported numbers of documents containing previously undisclosed govenerment information and datasets released vary widely. The Ministry of the Interior says that 9.71 million documents were disclosed by June 2016. In June 2016, the Ministry also informed the researcher that the original goal of 100 million documents had been lowered to 10 million, because an internal panel had concerns about the disclosure of private information such as addresses, phone numbers and contact information. MOI determined personal information, business secrets, confidential diplomatic and national security documents should not be automatically disclosed, and that the government should focus on releasing documents relevant to policymaking, signed by director generals or higher-ranking officials. One stakeholder, Kyungsin Park, Director at Open Net Korea and Professor of Law at Korea University at Korea University,[Note 27: Interview with Kyung-sin Park, October 25, 2016.] expressed concerns that the Ministry appears to be posting repeat datasets on the same topic from individual administrative districts, rather than creating a single data portal to eliminate redundancies and to allow datasets from individual districts to be collated. With scattered data across hundreds of districts nation-wide, Kyung-sin estimates that the actual number of unique nationwide datasets released is low, perhaps not more than 100 nation-wide datasets, and that the government-reported figure of 19,500 data files (as of February 2017) obfuscates the real picture. Based on desk research, the IRM researcher concurs that a large number of datasets are not nationwide ones, and may include unnecessary redundancies because datasets are organized locally. While the choice to lower the target number of documents disclosed to 10 million during the implementation period made sense from a logistical standpoint, given concerns over the true amount of unique information disclosed, this milestone has “limited” completion.

2.c.2 Form a Citizen Watch Group (Unclear)

In fulfilling milestone 2.c.2, the government stated in its midterm self-assessment report that it formed a citizen watchdog group[Note 28: Ministry of the Interior. Self-Assessment Report, June 2016, and End of Term Self-Assessment Report September 2016.], the “Open Data Civilian Monitoring Team” consisting of 50 private citizens, who convene to evaluate the “integrity of the open data portal [data.go.kr].” During the implementation period, the IRM researcher repeatedly attempted to locate members of the watchdog group but could not verify any names or obtain any contact information for participants. In the end of term self-assessment report, the government refers to the group by a new name, the “Informtion Disclosure Citizen Inpsectors (IDCI), and states that 41 citizens, activists and scholars were recruited through a MOI web posting from 29 May to 9 June 2014.[Note 29: MOI online recruitement advert for IDCI citizen watchdog group volunteers: (http://koreagov30.tistory.com/396) ] Both the Midterm Self-Assessment Report and page 29 of the June 2016 MOI report in Korean refers to a body called “정보공개 국민 모니터단” (“Open Data Civilian Monitoring Team) which made it difficult to locate information on monitoring activities.

The end of term government self-assessment report documents the IDCI findings that “that the organizations had failed to effectively sort and list the types of information to be disclosed, as well as allow the searching and browsing of information disclosed; that the organizations had failed to provide information of major interest to the public; and that the information disclosed contained significant amounts of irrelevant data.”

Using information available to the public, the researcher could only verify that the government recruited particpants the for the watchdog group online, but the identities of the participants and their contact information were removed. Due to the fact that the watchdog activities of this group, records of its meeting, and regular documentation about any issues raised is not available to the public this milestone is considered limited in completion.

2.c.3 Announce a list of data to be disclosed (Complete)

The government announced a list of data to be prioritized and disclosed. The categories are listed on South Korean government’s the data portal at data.go.kr and consist of areas such as employment, welfare, housing, health, recreation, safety, women’s development, financial administration, creative economy, and regulatory reform.

Did it open government?

Access to information: Marginal

Civic participation: Did Not Change

Public Accountability: Did not change

Before the National Action Plan, access to information was limited, particularly under the previous presidency of Lee Myung-bak (2008-2013) which was reputed for its practice of what South Koreans called “politics by public security,” or prioritizing national security policies and using anti-communist rhetoric at the expense of transparency and the right to civic participation.[Note 30: Jamie Doucette and Se-Woong Koo, "Distorting Democracy: Politics by Public Security in Contemporary South Korea," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 48, No. 4, December 2, 2013. http://apjjf.org/2013/11/48/Jamie-Doucette/4042/article.html%5D Stakeholders from the beginning of implementation were optimistic about the potential impact of this commitment in the area of civic participation.[Note 31: IRM stakeholder forum, Seoul, South Korea, September 2015]  By the end of the research period, however, public accountability and civic participation remain unchanged, as information, details, and outcomes from the citizen watch group, including verification of its activities, remain unclear. 

Furthermore, stakeholders were generally optimistic at the beginning of the commitment with regard to access to information. As implemented, Open Net Korea expressed pessimism over the success of increasing information disclosures, as the amount of actual new data released is unverified.[Note 32: E-mail correspondence with Kyung-sin Park, Director at Open Net Korea and Professor of Law at Korea University, October 25, 2016.] However, the government made progress during the research period in increasing the amount of data published, and changing previous data practices. This is partly due to the 2013 Open Data Law and its implementation through the data.go.kr website. The IRM researcher concurs with stakeholders that it is easier and more efficient as of September 2016 to gather basic information via document disclosures and open data sets on various aspects of government, such as public services.

Professor Sungsoo Hwang at Yeungnam University agreed there are still challenges, but added that South Korea’s open data projects are nevertheless a positive step forward in practice since the Open Data Law was passed in October 2013.[Note 33: Correspondence with Sungsoo Hwang, Associate Professor of Public Administration at Yeungnam University, November 29, 2016.] Sul Moon-won, professor of library, archive and information studies at Pusan National University, stated that “the impressive increase in the volume of advanced-notice disclosure information”—the kind referred to in the self-assessment as “information requiring prior release by theme/type”—is a “fruitful” outcome. However, he expressed concerns that “the quality of disclosed information has contrarily regressed.” He stated that these releases are “rendered so rudely that the overwhelming impression is that they exist for the sake of the provider’s statistics and outward performance metrics rather than a service mentality in the public interest.” He also raised concerns about the independence and overight of committees responsible for reviewing information to disclose, and questioned the lack of metadata to organize vast quantities of uploaded documents, particularly routine authorization documents.[Note 34: Interview with Sul Moon-won, April 17, 2017.] Current lack of quality control on the open data portal can make locating specific information difficult.

 

Jennifer Kang, a member of the government’s Open Data Strategy Council, echoed the concern that most of the uploaded data appears to consist of authorization documents and not always substantial policy documents of high value for the public interest. However, she noted that South Korea is one of only a few countries that release authorization documents to the public, and that this is a silver lining for transparency.[Note 35: Interview with Jennifer Kang, April 21, 2017.]


Despite stakeholder concerns, the commitment resulted in a marginal increase in disclosure and a commendable step in the right direction for improving access to information.

Carried forward?

This commitment has been carried forward to the third action plan under commitment 1a, increasing the number of organizations disclosing information online. To continue the trend of making government information open by default, the researcher  recommends setting more realistic targets for quantity of data released. Jennifer Kang, a member of the Open Data Strategy Council, recommened that the government instead aim for disclosing a set percentage of all documents produced annually, or publishing information on the percentage of document disclosed verses the total produced. Soliciting feedback from civil soceity to continually assess the quality of information and make improvements could also benefit future implementation practices.


South Korea's Commitments

  1. Public-Private Anti-Corruption System

    KR0036, 2018, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  2. Management System for Performance Venues

    KR0037, 2018, Open Data

  3. Real-Name Policy System

    KR0038, 2018, E-Government

  4. Safety Inspection System

    KR0039, 2018, Health

  5. Public Diplomacy System

    KR0040, 2018, Public Participation

  6. Open Communication Forum

    KR0041, 2018, E-Government

  7. Citizen Participation in Policy-Making

    KR0042, 2018, E-Government

  8. Disclosure of the Amount of Harmful Substance Contained in Foods

    KR0043, 2018, Environment and Climate

  9. Open Data

    KR0044, 2018, Open Data

  10. Discosure of Cultural Heritage Resources

    KR0045, 2018, Infrastructure & Transport

  11. Open National Priority Data

    KR0046, 2018, Environment and Climate

  12. Public Data Qulity Management

    KR0047, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  13. Voluntary Compliance Customs Administration

    KR0048, 2018, Capacity Building

  14. Organization Information Disclosure Online

    KR0022, 2016, E-Government

  15. Information in Original Form

    KR0023, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Standard Model for Pre-Release Information

    KR0024, 2016, Capacity Building

  17. National Data Disclosure

    KR0025, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  18. Public Data Quality Management

    KR0026, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  19. Free Open Format Use

    KR0027, 2016, Open Data

  20. Open Data Standards

    KR0028, 2016, Capacity Building

  21. Citizen Groups Government Service Design

    KR0029, 2016, Capacity Building

  22. e-Government Service Environment

    KR0030, 2016, E-Government

  23. Citizen Service Portals

    KR0031, 2016, Capacity Building

  24. Citizen Services Application

    KR0032, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  25. Public Sector Corruption Research

    KR0033, 2016, E-Government

  26. Citizens' Accessibility to ODA Statistics

    KR0034, 2016, Aid

  27. Disclosing Information on International Aids

    KR0035, 2016, Aid

  28. Strengthening Public-Private Collaboration

    KR0017, 2014, E-Government

  29. Providing Customized Services

    KR0018, 2014, Marginalized Communities

  30. Enhancing Information Disclosure

    KR0019, 2014, Public Participation

  31. Strengthening Public Service Ethics

    KR0020, 2014, Asset Disclosure

  32. Encouraging the Private Sector to Utilze Public Data

    KR0021, 2014, Open Data

  33. Provision of Diverse Public Services

    KR0001, 2012, E-Government

  34. Strengthening Citizens’ Monitoring of Government

    KR0002, 2012, Fiscal Transparency

  35. Use e-People to Promote Public Input in Policy Development

    KR0003, 2012, Public Participation

  36. Promote the Proposal System for Receiving Public Input Electronically

    KR0004, 2012, E-Government

  37. Develop a Manual on Consensus Building Among Various Stakeholders

    KR0005, 2012, E-Government

  38. Conduct Field Visits to Interact Directly with Stakeholders

    KR0006, 2012, E-Government

  39. Simplify Online Civil Affairs Application Forms

    KR0007, 2012, E-Government

  40. Refine the Portal to Be More User Friendly

    KR0008, 2012,

  41. Customise Online Services for Business

    KR0009, 2012, Private Sector

  42. Establish an Online Civil Affairs Hub to Provide 24-Hour Services

    KR0010, 2012, E-Government

  43. Disclose Critical Information on Food, Environment, and Education

    KR0011, 2012, E-Government

  44. Engage CSOs on Relevant Information to Be Disclosed

    KR0012, 2012, Public Participation

  45. Strengthen Asset Disclosure for Public Servants

    KR0013, 2012, Asset Disclosure

  46. Monitor Restrictions on Post-Public Employment

    KR0014, 2012, Asset Disclosure

  47. Release Public Information for Private Sector Use on the Data Sharing Portal

    KR0015, 2012, E-Government

  48. Engage Citizens in Administrative and Budget Processes

    KR0016, 2012, E-Government