As a recent survey indicates, almost eight in 10 Koreans support the Ministry of National Defense’s idea of giving favors in written employment tests to those who have completed active duty. Given this high approval rate, the ministry may be tempted to believe all it needs to do is request the legislature to pass the relevant bill awaiting action.
But it is not as simple as it looks. A similar law was ruled unconstitutional in 1999.
Under the law, those who had completed active duty had their scores boosted by 3-5 percentage points when they took written tests for employment by government agencies or state-owned corporations.
However, the Constitutional Court, which deliberated on the law at the request of a physically disabled person, ruled it unconstitutional because it discriminated against women and disabled people who were exempt from conscription. Activist groups representing their interests have since opposed any move to reinstate similar favors for conscripts.
Their opposition is based on discrimination not only against women and disabled people but also against those who would be denied the favors because they wanted to work in the private sector. Indeed, only 1 percent of those who have finished active duty apply for employment at government agencies and state-owned corporations.
In an apparent attempt to mitigate discrimination charges, the ministry cut the favors to 2.5 percentage points when it drafted the bill that is awaiting action at the National Assembly.
But the ministry will have to abandon the idea of staging a full-court press for the bill unless it is 100 percent convinced that it will be judged constitutional this time. A high approval rate in a survey is no guarantee in this regard. Should the legislation be struck down again, the ministry would be severely criticized for being irresponsible.