Korea: Time to Allow Foreigners to Work for Gov't

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Jan 21 14:27:15 UTC 2008

  Time to Allow Foreigners to Work for Gov't
 "I would like to suggest changing the law governing civil servants so that
we can employ foreigners in the government," president-elect Lee Myung-bak
said during a meeting with senior officials of the Democratic Party on
Saturday. "I specially invited William Ryback as senior official at deputy
chief level of the Financial Supervisory Service, but I could only appoint
him as a special adviser," he said in response to an offer by Democratic
Party lawmaker Lee Seung-hee. "I will employ talented foreigners in my
government," he added.

The law on public servants stipulates that foreigners can be hired only in
special areas of the government such as research, technology and education.
They are not allowed work in policy-making or in affairs involving national
security. It is understandable not to hire foreigners in areas involving the
exercise of state power, as well as national security or state secrets.

But the problem is the part of the law that restricts the hiring of
foreigners as civil servants even in matters involving "policy-making." The
term "policy-making" is ambiguous. Thousands to tens of thousands of
different fields are involved in the making of a country's policies. If it
is impossible to hire foreigners in all of those policy areas, then the only
roles foreigners can play are in the areas of research, technology and
education: as English-language teachers, instructors, researchers or

The only way for Korea to survive in the global era is to find its direction
as an open-market economy and lure talent, capital and technology from
around the world. In order for this to happen, it is only sensible to offer
talented and capable foreigners opportunities in these areas to serve as
government workers. The knowledge and experience of foreigners who have
worked in advanced economies and offered high-quality services are essential
to improving the competitiveness of our nation.

In Hong Kong, around 20 out of 140 section and bureau chiefs of government
offices are foreigners. FSS Deputy Chief Ryback comes from the U.S. Federal
Reserve Board and was scouted by the government of Hong Kong where he worked
for four years as senior vice president of the financial supervisory board.
This type of openness is why Hong Kong maintains its position as the
financial hub of Asia. The government of Singapore tours the world in search
of talented people for its civil service and holds recruitment drives.
Britain, Germany, France and other governments of the European Union are
moving to ease regulations involving the hiring of foreigners as government
workers. It is time for Korea to make similar changes.


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