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Exeunt, please

Sept 29,2017
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“Civil servants in the Ministry of Employment and Labor don’t work voluntarily, don’t take initiative in any job and don’t communicate with coworkers.” According to this view, the officials are simply not doing their job. It is a harsh evaluation, and the person who made this evaluation was none other than Minister of Employment Kim Young-ju.

In a press conference held 42 days into office, he openly criticized the ministry workers. No minister had been so frank about the people employed by the Ministry of Employment.

The heavy atmosphere was detected since Minister Kim took office. He appointed a policy aide in his National Assembly office as soon as he took the post. Ministry of Employment insiders complained that the aide was revising and commanding policies. They said that the minister does not trust ministry officials.

On Sept. 18, two director-level officials were dismissed. A week later, a guideline on firing underperforming employees and a guideline on employment rules were scrapped and director-level appointments were made. Key department heads were reassigned to affiliated organizations or regional offices. More high-level officials are scheduled to be posted to regional offices. A ministry source said those who were dismissed or relocated from headquarters had worked on labor reform.

A high-level ministry official said they thought they could be promoted by working hard, but the conventional path to success has been destroyed. Now, the system has been changed so that employees must simply follow orders. Some are optimistic that soon, things will be back on track.

However, the HR decisions in the Ministry of Employment have never been so noisy. I am anxious that the ministry is involved in such controversy as it advocates performance-oriented hiring and promotion, such as blind recruiting. We all know the past administrations made a blacklist and demoted and fired the officials who didn’t please the administration rather than making decisions based on performance and competency.

There are signs that the longstanding evils left lasting impacts. The employment policies of the administration came from Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategy and Finance Kim Dong-yeon, such as responses to the minimum wage increase, reduction of work hours and handling of ordinary wages. The Ministry of Employment of Labor has not proposed specific policies or focused on handling complaints such as labor issues in Paris Baguette and Kia Motors.

It looks like an overly decorated stage set, and it is a pity that personnel decisions and policies are confused in the chaotic light of political ideologies.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 27, Page 29

*The author is a senior employment and labor news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

KIM KI-CHAN