The government’s plan to overhaul the nation’s safety system and fight corruption, prompted by the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry, is drawing public criticism for, among others, its lack of substance and concrete timetable. All the criticism is warranted.
The plan, announced Tuesday by Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, calls for the establishment of a “pan-national committee for the grand rebuilding of the nation.” The committee, to be overseen by the prime minister, will have subpanels, dealing with civil service reform, safety innovation, anticorruption and mindset reform.
Chung said that the committee, which will include civilians, will draw up a “safety innovation master plan” by next February. Proposals to reform the civil service, including restricting retired officials from taking jobs in related private sector, will be worked out within this month, he said.
Reading the statement, Chung, who once tendered his resignation to take responsibility for the government mishandling of the ferry disaster, said that it is never an easy job to rebuild the nation.
Yet, it is dismaying that this is all that the government has arranged to correct the wrongs of this society, which combined to cause the deaths of more than 300 people, many of them high school boys and girls.
A government audit report, released hours before Chung’s announcement, makes one wonder whether the government plan will be able to overhaul the nation’s safety system, revamp the civil service and curb corruption.
Judging from the report of the Board of Audit and Inspection, the public has every right to remain skeptical. The report pointed to a combination of government negligence on regulation, slipshod safety inspections and badly-coordinated rescue operations, and corruption by government officials and civilian regulators commissioned by the government.
Anyone who read the BAI report carefully would doubt that the government’s plan to rebuild the nation will prevent mass disasters similar to the Sewol sinking.
What we can hardly understand either is why President Park Geun-hye is not taking charge of the all-important task of making the nation safer. Park should not have left the ad-hoc panel to Chung and should have read the statement herself. She was the first one who mentioned “nation rebuilding” when the entire nation was in utter agony and anger over the Sewol sinking.