It has long been debated whether or not public servants should be given the right to participate in politics. Not being given such a right means that they are required to remain forbidden from partisan politics, where they are able to actively advocate or denounce a certain political party, its candidates, and its ideologies. This practice is followed in most parts of the world, including South Korea. Those who oppose to such practice believe that public servants must be given the choice to voice their opinions on politics. Nonetheless, the ability to participate in partisan politics is a privilege, not a right, and at the end of the day, it is only for the best that they remain neutral.
Conceded, it is an inevitable feature of human nature for individuals to lean towards a particular political party. People base their judgments on the political party or candidate that they can best identify their personal interests and principles with and they cannot be blamed for such biases. Hence, public servants, who are humans themselves, are not exceptions to such circumstances. It is precisely this nature that they rely on when they endorse a particular politician during an election season. While their opinions about a certain party are as valuable as anyone else’s and should be freely shared with their intimate family and friends, making it known to the public will consequently result in an unfair election.
Arguably, civil servants, as seen in the Korean society, have a vast amount of influence upon normal citizens. Not only are their jobs incredibly relevant to the wellbeing of the country; they are also held in high esteem. This inclines for people to easily trust their words and respect their personal opinions. In turn, civil servants are given leverage when voicing their support for a particular political party, as compared to when a citizen does the same. The consequence of this is that it creates a natural and a subconscious bias among those who pay particular interest to the civil servants’ judgments. Ultimately, when public servants engage in partisan politics, it creates a situation wherein citizens making a more informed and uninfluenced decision would become difficult, undermining the sense of fairness in democratic elections.
A parallel example is the case of teachers who teach in public schools. The reason why teachers are prohibited from expressing their political opinions in front of their students is because their position calls for them to impart students with a holistic and impartial view about how the world works. However, once a teacher speaks out about her views on politics, those words will shape the students’ perspective about social issues, allowing them to be influenced. Just like teachers, public servants have an obligation to remain neutral when dealing with the public.
Another reason why public servants must remain neutral in partisan politics is because they should be focused on their respective jobs, unattached to any agenda of politicians. Being a public servant calls for one and only one main duty—to be of service to the country and its people, and to not cater to a certain political party. Their commitment to political neutrality is an implicit expression that they are willing to carry out their tasks, designed to aid the local community, regardless of who is in power. Hence, a neutral position portrays their willingness to work with those who were appointed into office to deliver the highest quality of service to the public.
While the fact that civil servants are, in essence, people who should be given the freedom to express their views, the job that they signed up for calls for a different form of responsibility. It requires them not to interfere with the decisions individuals formulate during the time of election and to place their priorities in being of service to their country first. These expectations should be deemed as more relevant than their participation in a political arena that they do not belong in.