University of Exeter Politics academics and Ben Bradshaw MP welcome senior civil servants from the Republic of Korea.

Korean return visit to Exeter for ethical programme

The University of Exeter has played host to a group of senior civil servants from the Republic of Korea by providing a special programme on ‘Fairness and Ethics in Government’. 

Academics in Politics organised the course, sponsored by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security of the Republic of South Korea, to inform officials about the expectations and pursuit of ‘fairness’ within the context of ethical standards in government.

Building on the long association of the University of Exeter’s Professor Stephen Wilks with the government of the Republic of Korea, this is the second time that highly regarded senior civil servants have been brought to Exeter to participate in the short programme. One of the attending officials Mr Il Hwang Jeong, Director of the Prime Minister’s Office, is an Exeter alumnus (MA in Public Policy).

One of the senior officials remarked on the importance of the course, saying: “Until recently, South Korea focused on economic growth and almost joined the top 10 countries in terms of GDP. However, social injustice has increasingly become a problem causing divisions within society.

“In the past, under the Confucian tradition, for Korean civil servants, honesty and lack of corruption was paramount, but Korean officials are also increasingly being called upon to promote fairness in the work they do. Although experiences and approaches to fairness between the UK and Korea are different, we, Korean civil servants, think that the British cases including the equality of opportunity and condition, fair reward and honour, and the sustainable development debate can provide lots of lessons to Korea. We believe that the programme, which is organised by the University of Exeter, is valuable and the academic staff and practitioners are really competent at what they do.”

The course explores the issues of economic fairness in the market, the growth of individualism and the use of the market as a way of distributing resources. It also explores the issue of fairness as social justice and the notion of a social contract between the individual citizen, the wider community and the state. Finally officials are asked to consider the notion of fairness as a moral principle.

High-profile speakers provided additional insight: Exeter MP and former Cabinet Minister Ben Bradshaw, Deborah Hargreaves, the Chair of the High Pay Commission, Professor Tony Wright, former Labour MP and Chair of the Commons Public Administration Committee, and Dr Elizabeth Vallence, long-serving member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Professor Andrew Massey, Head of Politics at the University of Exeter and a contributor to the course, views the programme as a way for the University to bring together the research skills of academics and expert practitioners. Professor Massey said:”It was a genuinely exciting opportunity to meet such a senior group of officials and debate issues with them that go to the heart of what we mean by ‘good government’ and a ‘fair’ society.”

Date: 28 September 2011

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