Senior public officials banned from private-sector jobs upon retirement
The government announced Friday new measures aimed at rooting out the deep-rooted practice of government and judicial officials placing their former colleagues in senior positions at private firms.
The so-called “jeon-gwan-ye-u” practice, which means giving “honorable treatment to retired colleagues,” is widespread in Korea, especially among prosecutors and judges.
During the meeting of the Presidential Commission on Fair Society on Friday, President Lee Myung-bak called for an end to the long-running practice, blaming it for the snowballing corruption scandal involving savings banks.
“What runs most counter to the criteria of a fair society is the ‘jeon-gwan-ye-u’ problem,” Lee said at the monthly meeting of some 150 government officials and civilian experts. The president launched the meeting in February to seek ways to improve fairness in Korean society.
“Unless we correct this, our society cannot become an advanced, first-class nation,” he said.
Under the new measures reported by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, retired high-ranking officials above Grade 1 will be barred for at least one year from working for private firms whose business is affected by affairs that they once regulated.
Those who retire as Cabinet ministers, vice ministers and Grade 1 officials as well as heads of provincial governments will be obliged to report details about their new employment to an authority overseeing public service ethics for one year after retirement, the ministry said.
New measures will be included in the current Public Servant’s Ethics Law to ensure the end of unfair employment practices of both incumbent and former government officials.
The career tracking system for former public officials will be strengthened to prevent unfair practices in employment. The employment ban period for private-sector positions associated with those held in public office before retirement will be extended from three to five years.
In case of financial supervisory officials, some of whom are involved in the savings banks scandal, job restrictions will be expanded from senior officials to working-level officials
On Friday, Lee told a meeting that a series of influence-peddling scandals involving failed savings banks have revealed society’s decades-old problems and the country should fix them.
“Shifting blame to others is not helpful in correcting problems,” Lee said. “The entire society should take the problem as its own and must boldly overcome it. Then our society can move forward.”
The government plans to implement the measures as early as October after the revision to the Public Servant’s Ethics Law currently underway is completed in June.
However, the new ethics measures are likely to stir disputes in the coming months before enactment.
Critics, questioning their effectiveness, point out that they are weak in punishment.
The government is considering imposing a fine of up to 10 million won on those who are found to be involved in the employment practice.
The penalty seems too weak considering that most of the former public officials are to work at large accounting or legal firms paying them hundreds of millions of won, critics said.
Some measures are also likely to infringe on freedom of career choice, they said. In a recent case on the revised lawyers’ law, the Constitutional Court also ruled it unconstitutional that former judges and prosecutors are not allowed to practice law near their former work areas for two years after retirement.
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org)