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South Korea

Strengthening Public Service Ethics (KR0020)

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

Asset Disclosure, Capacity Building, Conflicts of Interest, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery

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

In order to discourage retired public oficials from seking lucrative positons outside the public sector, post-public employment wil be more strictly inspected in 2014 with a target restriction rate of 9.7 percent. A detailed plan to strengthen the inspection is scheduled to be made available within the month of April 2014. The Korean government wil hold regular advisory group metings at least twice a year withretired oficials, public administration profesors, and experts to gain fedback constantly on the inspection proces in place. The target restriction rate wil be adjusted upward every year from 2015. Also, retired public oficials wil be provided with guidelines about post-public employment restrictions on the website for aset disclosure as son as they sign in to declare their retirement status. In aditon, from the second half of 2014, the result of inspections on post-public employment wil beposted on the websites of government oficial ethics commites for the purpose of making the ethics commites more transparent and acountable and enhancing their reliabilty to citzens.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

II. Improving Public Services

Commitment 2d. Strengthening Public Service Ethics

Commitment Text:

In order to discourage retired public officials from seeking lucrative positions outside the public sector, post-public employment will be more strictly inspected in 2014 with a target restriction rate of 9.7 percent. A detailed plan to strengthen the inspection is scheduled to be made available within the month of April 2014. The Korean government will hold regular advisory group meetings at least twice a year with retired officials, public administration professors, and experts to gain feedback constantly on the inspection process in place. The target restriction rate will be adjusted upward every year from 2015. Also, retired public officials will be provided with guidelines about post-public employment restrictions on the website for asset disclosure as soon as they sign in to declare their retirement status. In addition, from the second half of 2014, the result of inspections on post-public employment will be posted on the websites of government official ethics committees for the purpose of making the ethics committees more transparent and accountable and enhancing their reliability to citizens.

Editorial Note: Four milestones were derived from this commitment:

 

1. Develop post-employment inspection plan and carry out inspections in 2014 and 2015

2. Hold advisory group meetings at least twice a year with retired officials, public administration professors, and experts to gather opinions on the inspection process.

3. Post online guidelines for retired public officials on asset disclosures upon declaring retirement status

4. Post finding of inspection findings on post-public employment on the websites of government ethics committees.


Responsible institution: Ministry of Personnel Management

Start date:  N/A End date: N/A

Commitment Aim:

This commitment aims to improve ethics and anti-corruption efforts for civil servants, and to advance beyond a system of gifts, exchanges and patronage that are a staple of South Korean politics, especially those that involve high-level conflicts of interest between government and business leaders.[Note 36: David C. Kang. 2002. Crony Capitalism: Corruption and Development in South Korea and the Philippines. Cambridge University Press. ] It aims to advance values of access to information, civic participation and public accountability. At the time of adopting the commitment, the South Korean government had been suffering safety, regulatory, and corruption scandals on an alarmingly regular basis, and various new laws and regulations were continuously being put in place to allay future scandals.[Note 37: Major scandals include the 2013 nuclear plant safety scandal; the 2013 Four Rivers Project scandal; the sinking of the Sewol ferry partly because of a lack of enforcement of government safety regulations, leading to the deaths of more than 300 people; the second conviction for financial pardon and second presidential pardon of SK Chairman Chey Tae-won in 2015; and the convictions and pardons of at least six of South Korea’s most prominent businessmen in the 1990s and 2000s; and the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye and investigation into her political allies and business CEOs for allegations of large-scale corruption. More information can be found at Transparency International’s website on South Korea at https://www.transparency.org/country/KOR.] More specifically, the commitment sets out to:

  1. Develop a post-employment inspection plan and carry out inspections in 2014 and 2015
  2. Hold advisory group meetings at least twice a year with retired officials, public administration professors, and experts to gather opinions on the inspection process.
  3. Post online guidelines for retired public officials on asset disclosures upon declaring retirement status
  4. Post finding of inspection findings on post public employment on the websites of government ethics committees.

Status

Mid-term: Not started

At the time of the mid-term report no verifiable evidence was available to determine the completion for any of the milestones, despite repeated requests by the IRM researcher, including the note sent by the OGP IRM support unit to the government. Desktop research and inspection of the relevant websites also did not reveal any information regarding implementation of post-employment restrictions (milestone 2.d.1). The researcher could not locate the meeting minutes or summaries of “advisory group meetings” (milestone 2.d.2). Relevant web searches did not reveal that any guidelines for asset disclosures of public officials had been posted (milestone 2.d.3). The IRM researcher could not find the specific “government ethics websites” that publish audit findings (milestone 2.d.4), and it was not clear whether that refers to the website of the National Anti-Corruption Commission or to a separate website.[Note 38: Open Government Partnership. “South Korea 2014-2015 IRM Progress Report,” pp. 31-34.]

End of term: Limited

2.d.1 Develop plan and carry out inspections (Substantial)

In its June 2016 Korean-language report, MOI stated that amendments to the Public Service Ethics Act in December 2015 (a law passed shortly after the writing of the IRM mid-term report) fulfilled milestone 2.d.1. The amendments stated that public officials could only seek reemployment after a three year “covenant” period following retirement, expanded a list of prohibited conflict-of-interest employers (which is set to reach 14,214 barred employers in 2016), tightened standards for evaluating conflicts of interest, and required high-ranking officials to disclose their employment history, among other new requirements.[Note 39: Ministry of the Interior. “Open Government Partnership Self-Assessment Report” (열린정부파트너십자체평가보고서), June 2016. The government published a self-assessment report in English and Korean in October 2015, followed by a separate Korean report labeled a “self-assessment” in June 2016. The latter report has much of the same information, but many additions including the point cited here.] The law itself cannot be considered a form of completion of this commitment, but the heightened inspections as a result of that law contribute to completion.

In 2014 and 2015, during the period under review, the government substantially stepped up enforcement of the new law in the form of tougher inspections, denying about 20 percent of applications for post-government employment from civil servants, up from 9.3 percent in 2013 and 5 percent in 2012.[Note 40: Ministry of the Interior, Republic of Korea. “열린정부파트너십자체평가보고서,” (Translation: Open Government Partnership Self-Assessment Report), June 2016, pp. 23-25.] These legal revisions and toughened enforcement make completion of this milestone “substantial.”

2.d.2 Hold advisory group meetings (Limited)
The government held two meetings of a panel of independent experts, with a subcommittee called the “Ethical Work Advisory Committee,” in 2015. The government self-assessment report states that the Committee met multiple times during the implementation period, but also states that “details of meetings and procedings are not disclosed to the public” although meeting dates are posted online.
[Note 41: MPM webpage: https://goo.gl/16GaU6] The government also provided a list of meeting titles and dates (as posted on the website) it carried out between 2014 -16. The researcher could not ascertain the names and contact information of the committee members, and cannot verify the that advisory meetings were convened in a way that allowed stakeholders to monitor or raise issues with ethics compliance. During the Implemenation of the action plan, it remained unclear from the government report, interviews, and web searches whether any meetings were held in 2016 that complied with the commitment. Provided that no meeting minutes, participant lists, summaries, or outputs are available to the public, the activities cannot be verified and this milestone is considered limited in completion.

2.d.3 Online guidelines on asset disclosure (Substantial)
The government has posted a
“public official reemployment self-diagnosis program” on its ethics website (gpec.go.kr) and began sending out SMS reminders on ethical rules during the implementation period. This makes completion “substantial.”

2.d.4 Post ethics inspections online (Limited)
The 2016 government self-assessment report states that audit results are posted on the Government Public Ethics Committee website at
http://www.gpec.go.kr/servlet/GpecServlet. The IRM researcher confirmed in June 2016 that the audit results had been posted on the website; however, upon subsequent visits to the webpage later in 2016, the audit information was not available. The IRM researcher, a research assistant, and IRM staff members have independently tried to access the audit information and at the time of writing this report (May 2017), all confirm that the website fails to load. Therefore, it remains difficult to verify what happened after June 2016, and if the audit results are still posted as required by this milestone. For this reason, completion is coded as limited.

Did it open government?

Access to information: Did not change

Civic participation: Marginal

Public accountability: Did not change

In the months and years leading up to the beginning of the implementation period, South Korea had suffered a number of public scandals arising from government-private sector collusion and “revolving doors,” most notably a nuclear power safety scandal in summer 2013 and allegations of widespread corruption and negligence in the “Four Rivers” infrastructure project.[Note 42: Chosun Ilbo. “Probe Finds Massive Underhand Dealings in Four Rivers Project,” July 11, 2013, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/07/11/2013071101465.html, accessed September 8, 2016.]

While tackling an important issue, the commitment had been evaluated as having a minor potential impact at the midterm. It did not set out to significantly stretch government practice, requiring only minor changes to current laws, and stakeholders generally did not see much new thinking in the area of anti-corruption from the previous cycle.

Despite these limitations, stakeholders initially believed the commitment was among the most pertinent and had substantial potential to improve public accountability if implemented well.[Note 43: IRM stakeholder forum, Seoul, South Korea, September 2015.] The government followed through on many counts of the original commitment. In particular it began enforcing and implementing changes to the Civil Service Ethics Act in the form of inspections, and pro-actively provided civil servants with information on laws regulating their post-government employment through SMS messages and websites.[Note 44: Ministry of the Interior, Republic of Korea. “열린정부파트너십자체평가보고서,” (Translation: Open Government Partnership Self-Assessment Report), June 2016, pp. 23-25.] In 2015, MOI expanded the scope of prohibited employers and increased the number of declined applications for post-government employment to 20 percent, or 112 out of 538 applications. This is a slight improvement in 2014 from 19.6 percent, or 51 out of 260, but a significant improvement from 2013 and before, when the ratio was from 5 to 10 percent.

Despite the initial optimism, by December 2016 nearly all stakeholders and the researcher had abandoned the belief that the commitment and its implementation could be connected to any measurable improvement in public accountability. In November 2016, President Park Geun-hye and her closest aides came under investigation and parliamentary scrutiny in one of the nation’s largest corruption scandals in its democratic history. The President’s backdoor dealings occurred throughout the implementation period before being revealed in October 2016. Since the known extent of this political influence and alleged corruption is almost unprecedented in South Korea’s democratic period, many stakeholders have dropped any remaining optimism around this commitment and believe that the national context has nullified any potential it once had.[Note 45: E-mail correspondence with Open Net’s Park Kyung-sin and Sungsoo Hwang at Yeungnam University.]

Carried forward?

This commitment has not been carried forward to the third action plan. To complete implementation, the researcher recommends publishing Ethical Work Advisory Committee meeting minutes, transcripts or summaries of those transcripts to the public. Stakeholders would benefit from having access to more transparency that shows how anti-corruption laws are enforced, rather than only what is being done to enforce them. For example, requiring the Blue House, prime minister’s office and ministers to submit to stronger inspections by politically independent government bodies. Additionally, making results of post-employment inspections publicly accessible and easily searchable could improve government transparency.


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