Law proposed to lift restrictions on foreigners in public positions

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January 22, 2008
http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2885383Within just a few months, non-Koreans might be working side-by-side with Korean officials in district offices, even wearing the same gray uniforms. A bill that would remove almost every barrier to foreign nationals working in the Korean government is one of the reform measures the Grand National Party submitted yesterday to the National Assembly.
If approved, non-Koreans could be appointed to even the highest posts, such as the head of a ministry.
“It’s President-elect Lee Myung-bak’s belief that government jobs should be open to anyone who is competitive enough for the job,” said Lee Dong-kwan, a spokesman for the president-elect’s transition committee.
The spokesman said non-Korean nationals are still be likely to be excluded from being appointed to senior posts involving national security or military intelligence.
Article 26, Clause 3 of the nation’s public servant law bans foreigners from taking public posts that “exercise or decide national policies in the fields of security and technology.” That rule, in effect, limits foreigners in public posts to serving as teachers or professors.
Although no decisions have been made public yet, sources expect that if the new bill passes, the first senior public posts opened to foreigners will be in the financial sector. William Ryback, an American who is a veteran of the United States Federal Reserve and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, has been working as a special adviser to the Financial Supervisory Service since last year. Another likely candidate is David Eldon, born in Scotland and currently the co-chairman of the transition team’s special subcommittee on national competitiveness.
“When the law passes,” explained a transition team official, “we can assume that their status could change from being civilian workers to public servants in Korea.”
President-elect Lee initially brought up the idea of the new law on Friday in a meeting with Democratic Party lawmakers. In a response to a Democratic lawmaker who pointed out that Ryback has not yet made any significant contributions, Lee said, “That’s because he has not been securely positioned as a public servant.”
Another close aide of Lee, who declined to be identified, said the president-elect was not impressed with the names recommended for upcoming appointments and wanted a broader pool of candidates.By Lee Min-a Staff Reporter [mina@joongang.co.kr]

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