The world of government officials in Korea is so closed that lobbying and corruption are becoming rampant

9 of 10 officials get plush private-sector landings

The most popular destination for the former officials was Samsung.

Oct 11,2013

BY SONG SU-HYUN, KIM KYUNG-HEE [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

The world of government officials in Korea is so closed that lobbying and corruption are becoming rampant, according to a lawmaker’s analysis that found about 93 percent of 1,362 high-ranking former government officials have been employed by the private sector since 2009. In Korea, when retired public servants want to work, they have to get approval from the Government Public Ethics Committee.Areas of re-employment for the former senior government officials ranged from the financial sector to public relations.
Saenuri Party lawmaker Kim Jin-tae found there were a number of former senior officials who got jobs at conglomerates like Samsung, Hyundai and SK.
The most popular destination for the former officials was Samsung. Over the past four years, 118 received positions with the country’s largest family-run business. They prefer to work at affiliates of Samsung instead of at headquarters, since they get less attention while still being treated well, Kim found.
Those who were in charge of auditing at government branches typically got auditor positions at top financial companies or commercial banks. Some of them also became advisers for law firms.
Korea Development Institute, the state-run economic think tank, criticized the rampant practice of the private sector re-employing retired government officials, saying it encourages illegal lobbying activities and corruption.
The institute said there needs to be an overhaul in the public sector’s exclusive organizational structure.
Although the report said such reemployment does not need to be banned, there should be fundamental measures in place to prevent increases in lobbying.
“The recent scandals in the nuclear power plant industry and collapse of savings banks were caused largely by to illegal lobbying activities by former government officials,” said Kim Jae-hoon, a research fellow at the institute. “The exclusive organizational structure and intimate relationships between former and incumbent government officials are major culprits.”
In advanced countries, employment of former public servants in the private sector has been quite open since the 1980s.
The Korean practice of employing former public officials is considered closed compared to other OCED member countries, the report showed. On a scale of zero to one, Korea got 0.392, lower than the OCED average of 0.478. The closer the index is to zero, the more exclusive is a country’s public sector.
“Because we have a state examination to become government officials, which is quite hard for ordinary people, those who have passed the exam have the so-called ‘gosi pride,’” said a senior official at the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, a top government agency. “Due to our pride, it is somewhat difficult for people from the private sector to get along with us even if we choose to work in the public sector.”
Since 2000, the government has opened 20 percent of senior official spots to the private sector in an attempt to be more inclusive. But experts from the private sector often refuse to enter the public sector because of lower salaries.
Some experts say it is not fair to criticize former government officials who are looking for jobs to make ends meet after early retirement.
“The government would need to set specific guidelines to reduce conflicts of interest between individual government officials, who have the right to have another job to make a living, and the government side that prioritizes public interest and restraint from having connections with the private sector,” said Kim Geun-se, a public administration professor at Sungkyunkwan University.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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