Civil Service Reform Plan(CSRP)
Seoul Metropolitan Government

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
In 2001, the South Korean government introduced nationwide legislation against corruption, which was later amended into the Act on Anti-Corruption and the Establishment and Operation of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission. The Anti-Corruption Act, despite its ambition, had shortcomings. It was still not possible, under this law, to punish civil servants for corruption if there was no proof they had promised any favors in return for gifts. The law also failed to set a specific code of ethics for civil servants. Mayor Park Won-soon and the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) announced the SMG Civil Service Reform Plan (a.k.a. “the Park Won-soon Law”) in August 2014, and amended the Code of Conduct for SMG employees as well as the SMG Rules on Discipline and Punishment in October of the same year. Whereas legislation requires lengthy debates, an organization’s code of conduct can always be introduced and amended with a leader’s determination and vision. The Civil Service Reform Plan centers on a zero-tolerance policy against corruption and bribery, irrespective of the value or amounts of gifts involved. It carries punishments from demotion to pay cuts to dismissal from the civil service altogether. The plan made it clear that civil servants who were caught accepting even the smallest of gifts would have no standing in local civil service. With the Civil Service Reform Plan, the SMG successfully raised anti-corruption awareness across its 40,000 employees and the 25,000 employees of its affiliated organizations and agencies. The plan has also made the SMG an exemplar for other public organizations and local governments to emulate, bolstering the SMG’s pioneering stature in proactively satisfying the public’s expectation of integrity in the civil service.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The SMG Civil Service Reform Plan introduces a reinforced Code of Conduct for local government employees, which makes it possible to punish and discipline civil servants for any gifts or bribes they receive, irrespective of the amounts involved or whether favors were promised in return. The plan’s strict prohibition of any conflicts of interest provides the grounds for reviewing changes in high-level civil servants’ wealth in relation to their public service duties. Version 2.0 of the Civil Service Reform Plan was announced in October 2016 and featured new and improved measures for fostering integrity, autonomy, and accountability in the civil service, including incentives for exemplary organizations and measures to encourage civil servants to report corruption without fear of reprisal.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The Civil Service Reform Plan introduced the following measures to eradicate corruption from local civil services and enhance the public’s trust in government administration. (1) Conflicts-of-interest review: The SMG now has the authority to review any possible conflicts of interest between civil servants’ duties and not only their assets, but also those of their spouses, family members and relatives. Civil servants who are found to have knowingly had conflicts of interest will be suspended from their duties, transferred to other positions, etc. (2) Solicitation Self-Reporting System (SSRS): High-ranking civil servants (Grade 4 or higher) are now required to report every quarter any improper solicitations they have received. This means they now have a pretext for turning down improper solicitations and that solicitors run the risk of their actions being placed on record. (3) One strike and out system: Civil servants are now subject to punishment for any gifts they receive, irrespective of their number or value below KRW 1 million, and if the value of the gifts exceeds KRW 1 million, they will face dismissal. (4) Restraining retired civil servants’ re-employment: New guidelines and systemic education are in place that specify what retired civil servants ought not to do in seeking private-sector employment. This initiative also involves the disclosure, on the SMG website, of the results of reviews on retired civil servants’ eligibility for seeking employment with various private-sector entities. The Civil Service Reform Plan Version 2.0, released in October 2016, introduced the following additional measures: (1) Voluntary Integrity Compliance Program (VICP): This program encourages each department to identify, monitor, and eliminate internal corruption under the stewardship of the department head. The SMG fairly evaluates all departments’ anti-corruption efforts and exemplary ones are rewarded, such as with the postponement of auditing. At the same time, the program strengthens protections for civil servants actively involved in the program. (2) Enhanced preventive auditing system: This new reform plan expands the scope of routine safety inspections and a-priori auditing consultation to include the public and semi-public organizations in which the SMG invests. (3) Support for communication and implementation management: This new reform plan strengthens communications between auditors and audited organizations from the beginning to end of auditing to maximize the effectiveness of auditing results. (4) Enhancing auditors’ capabilities and collaboration system: The SMG also expanded the Public Interest Auditing Group, comprising 15 to 50 external independent experts, such as lawyers and accountants, with the specific role of enhancing the auditing of safety and labor issues. Corruption aggravates poverty, accelerates inequality, and intensifies political and economic instability. Public authority, exercised by various state agencies and bureaucracies, has stood at the center of the corruption that has been rampant across Korea to this day. Mayor Park openly declared his resolve to end this unethical conduct by announcing the Civil Service Reform Plan upon his inauguration. The Civil Service Reform Plan has increased local civil servants’ alertness against corruption, encouraged the public’s increasing interest in, and support for, fighting corruption, and thereby paved the way for better public and administrative services for everyone.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The Civil Service Reform Plan is the first government initiative that introduced the conflicts-of-interest review system into Korea’s civil service. Convinced that such a review stands at the core of its effort to eradicate corruption, the SMG incorporated the requirement for these reviews into the Code of Conduct, subjecting high-ranking civil servants to them first. The conflicts-of-interest review was initially confined to volunteering high-ranking civil servants of Grade 3 or higher. Beginning in 2016, the review became mandatory for all high-ranking civil servants of Grade 4 or higher, who must undergo the review at least once annually. Whereas the Civil Service Reform Plan Version 1.0, introduced in October 2014, focused on reinforcing the severity of punishment for corruption, Version 2.0 emphasizes encouraging civil servants’ accountability and self-correcting efforts. Version 2.0 encourages individual departments and organizations to identify, monitor, and eliminate forms of corruption unique to them, offering exemplary organizations incentives, including postponement of auditing and exemption from disciplinary actions. Also designed to address Version 1.0’s possibly discouraging effect on civil servants who remained silent for fear of punishment, Version 2.0 fosters an active anti-corruption culture throughout local civil service by encouraging and protecting civil servants in the fight against corruption.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The zero tolerance of corruption embodied by the SMG’s Civil Service Reform Plan garnered astounding support from the 10 million citizens of Seoul, and it dramatically increased alertness against corruption in the 40,000 employees of the SMG, the 25,000 employees of the SMG’s affiliate organizations, and even the 600,000 employees hired by various agencies and organizations of the national government. The SMG regularly educated and trained all 65,000 of its employees and affiliate employees on the importance of integrity, and it has encouraged all organizations to adopt integrity evaluation systems and other such measures to foster a culture of integrity throughout local civil service. The Civil Service Reform Plan, moreover, has prompted the Ministry of Interior (MOI) to amend and update its own rules for the national government’s 600,000 employees regarding discipline and punishment in the fight against corruption.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
In July 2015, to ensure the effective implementation of the new Code of Conduct for SMG employees, the SMG transformed the single Auditing Officer System into the Auditing Committee, reporting directly to the Mayor. Consisting of one chair and seven independent experts, the Auditing Committee reviews and declines auditing plans and outcomes through mutual discussion to enhance the fairness and transparency of the auditing results. Two of the members on the committee are appointed by Seoul Metropolitan Council nomination. Making the Seoul Metropolitan Council accountable for auditing in this way has also led to increases in the budget for the auditing committee. In 2016, the budget for the Auditing Committee, together with related activities for fostering a culture of integrity, was KRW 798 million, up by 22 percent from the KRW 651 million provided in 2015. The budget further increased to KRW 948 million in 2017, up by 18 percent from 2016 due to the operation of the Public Interest Auditing Group. The heads of auditing departments at the SMG, district offices, and other affiliate organizations continue to participate in the Auditing Council to share best practices, organize joint training sessions for their respective employees, and engage in in-depth debates on auditing policy measures. The council met eight times in 2016. In August 2016, the scope of the Civil Service Reform Plan’s influence was expanded to encompass not only the 40,000 employees of the SMG, but also the 25,000 employees of 21 affiliate organizations. Integrity education and training continue to be provided for the integrity officers of various auditing departments, and an anti-corruption meeting is held at the end of each year, at which participants can share experiences and lessons learned. The SMG has also appointed an Integrity Policy Advisory Committee, consisting of 13 outside experts (including NGO representatives and journalists) to monitor and provide feedback on the entirety of its integrity policy measures. In addition, the SMG was the first local government in Korea to assemble a Public Interest Auditing Group of ombudsmen consisting of 15 experts, including accountants and lawyers. The group is charged with auditing the private-sector commission and subsidization projects on a trial basis. This has further strengthened the SMG’s public-private partnership in governance.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
In August 2016, the SMG appointed 13 (nonexecutive) members to its Board of Advisors for Integrity Policy, consisting of NGO representatives, academics, journalists and other such experts to monitor and provide feedback on all aspects of the city’s integrity policy, from policymaking to execution to evaluation. The committee has met four times, as of February 2017, and continues to perform a valuable function. In addition, the SMG assembled the Public Interest Auditing Group, consisting of 15 independent experts including accountants and lawyers, to overcome the shortage of auditors able to handle the increasing private-sector commission and subsidization policy projects. The group oversaw four trial auditing projects in 2016, which included on-site inspections of public facilities and the auditing of private-sector subsidies. The SMG intends to increase the group’s membership significantly to 200 or more in 2017 to ensure the effective and efficient auditing of its policy projects.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Over the last two years under the Civil Service Reform Plan’s one-strike and out policy, six civil servants have faced severe punishments. The number of civil servants charged with corruption—including bribery and other violations of the law, such as driving under the influence—was reduced by 38 percent, from 146 to 90, and the number of reports voluntarily filed by civil servants on the gifts they received multiplied by 5.6 times, from 283 to 1577. Moreover, the Auditing Reform Plan has transformed the auditing culture in local civil service by shifting the emphasis from control and punishment to autonomy, accountability, and co-governance. Auditing is now used to prevent corruption rather than handle corruption after it occurs. This represents a significant improvement to the Civil Service Reform Plan. The SMG’s pioneering example also inspired the MOI in November 2015 to change its rules on disciplining local government employees for bribery, lowering the minimum punishable gifts value from KRW 3 million to KRW 1 million, on a par with the SMG’s minimum. A telephone opinion poll on 1,000 citizens in Seoul in September 2015 showed that 51.2 percent of them were favorable toward the SMG’s efforts for integrity in civil service. Another opinion poll on 1,620 SMG employees revealed that 89 percent of them confirmed the policy’s effect of increasing alertness against corruption in the civil service. Another 93 percent expressed an expectation that the reform plan would significantly contribute to improving civil service integrity. Since 2014, the Civil Service Reform Plan has strengthened the integrity and trustworthiness of governance in Seoul, making the city’s policies more sustainable.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The stricter Rules of Conduct introduced under the Civil Service Reform Plan had no legal binding force on civil servants. Punished civil servants thus won court cases against the SMG, claiming that the SMG’s punishments were too harsh. In November 2014, to introduce legal grounds for enforcement, the SMG made a proposal to the Ministry of Personnel Management (MPM) to consider amending the Public Service Ethics Act (PSEA). This attempt led to the national government reinforcing legally binding rules for punishing local government employees for corruption. The MOI also obliged this initiative by lowering the minimum punishable gifts amount from KRW 3 million to KRW 1 million in its Rules of Discipline and Punishment against Local Government Employees, on a par with the SMG’s minimum. Furthermore, acknowledging the importance of individual civil servants’ willingness and commitment to the success of the reform plan, the SMG developed and distributed The Handbook on the Civil Service Reform Plan and provided ongoing integrity education and training. There were concerns that the Civil Service Reform Plan’s severity on corruption could discourage civil servants from taking an active role in reform out a fear of reprisal. The SMG responded to such fears by releasing its Auditing Reform Plan in October 2016. Under the new plan, beginning in February 2017, a Voluntary Integrity Compliance Program provides incentives and rewards for organizations that voluntarily root out corruption and strengthens protections for whistleblowers and civil servants who actively participate.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Public service innovation is indispensable for innovation in the private sector and society at large. With the determination to eradicate improper solicitations, bribery, and other forms of corruption in civil service, the SMG announced its Civil Service Reform Plan in October 2014, achieving a major milestone in the nation’s progress toward a more transparent society. The reform plan served as a catalyst for the final enactment of the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act (ISGA) in March 2015, after years of that draft’s pending before the national legislature. Over the past two years since the introduction of the plan, the number of civil servants charged with corruption—including bribery, drinking under the influence, sexual crime, violation of duties, and assault—has decreased by 38 percent, from 146 to 90, while the number of reports voluntarily filed by civil servants on gifts they received has multiplied by 5.6 times, from 283 to 1,577. Moreover, the number of departments and affiliate organizations of the SMG that have utilized the pre-consulting auditing program concerning licensing and other regulatory works has significantly increased in a growing movement toward internal reform. The SMG submits itself to the annual integrity evaluations of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC). It has also launched an integrity task force within the Office of Auditing to evaluate the integrity of the SMG’s departments and affiliate organizations every year. Exemplary organizations will receive reward incentives, including prizes and postponements of auditing.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The SMG’s Civil Service Reform Plan has greatly enhanced the public’s trust in the SMG and its activities. According to an opinion poll conducted by World Research in September 2015, 90.4 percent of civil servants responded that they regarded themselves as less corrupt than their counterparts elsewhere in Korea. Another survey targeting the general public in March 2015 revealed that public awareness of the reform plan was up by 10.4 percent from the previous year, and that 95.1 percent of all SMG employees were aware of the plan. More than seven out of every 10 citizens surveyed believed that the plan would improve integrity within the civil service. The plan’s individual measures and programs also garnered higher scores across the board, valued for their effectiveness. The one strike and out system was the most popular of all reform measures among citizens and civil servants alike. Asked whether the continued implementation of the Civil Service Reform Plan would contribute to the overall integrity of civil service, 83.7 percent of citizens and 93.0 percent of civil servants answered in the affirmative. And 88.9 percent of civil servants agreed that the plan had significantly increased civil servants’ alertness against corruption in general. Over the past two years since the introduction of the plan, six civil servants have been punished under the one strike and out policy, while the number of civil servants involved in corruption (bribery, drunkenness, etc.) dropped by 38 percent, from 146 to 90. Meanwhile, the number of reports voluntarily filed by civil servants on the gifts they received multiplied by 5.6 times, from 283 to 1,577. The VICP, a central feature of Civil Service Reform Plan Version 2.0 released in October 2016, is expected to play a major role in further strengthening the public’s trust in the SMG. The program encourages the SMG’s departments and affiliate organizations to identify, monitor, assess, and eliminate corruption within their own ranks. The program recognizes that a trustworthy and accountable civil service requires not only legal enforcement, but also the commitment of civil servants themselves in the fight against corruption.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
In its 2004 Global Corruption Report, Transparency International argues that corruption is responsible for perpetuating poverty. In full agreement, the SMG set out to end the cycle of corruption and poverty by proactively adopting a powerful anti-corruption program even before the national legislature had adopted its own in law. The SMG’s endeavor garnered much support from the entire nation. In July 2015, the SMG established an Auditing Committee as a conciliar organization reporting directly to the Mayor. Two women were purposely appointed to the Committee so that their concerns on human rights violations and discrimination against women could be heard and more effective remedies arrived at as a result. The one strike and out system has also reduced the number of civil servants involved in various forms of corruption, including sexual harassment and assault, by 39 percent in its first year from 71 to 43, and by 38 percent in its second year from 146 to 90, thereby fostering a workplace environment in which women felt safer and were better respected.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Seoul Metropolitan Government
Institution Type:   Local Government  
Contact Person:   Wonshin Jeon
Title:   Audit and Inspection  
Telephone/ Fax:   82-2-2133-3023
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   110, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu
Postal Code:   04524
City:   Seoul

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