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Implications: Enforcement of greater accountability in the civil service by the Moon administration may have had some adverse impact on innovation and bureaucratic flexibility – however, criticisms of these rigidities are also overstated. For the past three years, critics of the Moon administration had cast doubts on the effectiveness of the anti-corruption campaign, claiming that it was fostering a culture of passivity within the civil service. Declining morale among government workers appears to support this claim; however, it is difficult to solely blame the administration’s reform efforts. Satisfaction rates among public officials were even lower under the previous Park Geun-hye administration. Moreover, internal investigations and tightening of regulations have not prevented the incumbent government from rolling out “administrative innovations,” which include bold changes to the work hours of civil servants.
Context: President Moon Jae-in was elected in 2017 riding on widespread public support for greater government transparency. This public outpouring came on the heels of revelations that then-recently impeached President Park Geun-hye had used her office to exchange influence for cash. The main target of President Moon’s reform was the prosecutor’s office which the public perceived as the government body most responsible for abetting the abuse of executive privilege. Simultaneously, the Moon administration has sought to modernize the bureaucracy by adopting technology and providing expanded services to the public.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Gordon Henning, Soojin Hwang, Hyungim Jang, and Ingyeong Park.
Picture from flickr account of USAG- Humphreys