Any young person in Korea has, at least once, likely dreamed of becoming a public official. But how much do we know about public officials, and the lives they lead? You might take several days to decide to buy one t-shirt, but how much would you sacrifice yourself if you chose a job that could work at until your retirement? Such a decision would mean you probably need to consider your work-life balance, potential for a retirement pension, and so on, before even starting preparations for the exams for becoming a government worker. Is the career of a public official one you could take up for your entire life? The book under discussion here is for young Koreans who ask that question of themselves, who dream of becoming public officials.
Kim Ji-won (MPP 2020), a passionate KDI school student and public official in Korea, describes his ten years of public service in the book “The Day I Met My Friend Who Wanted to Become a Public Official.”
The author says that real life is about achieving your dreams, and if you are curious about what life might be like after becoming a public official, or if you have specific life goals in your mind, you will be able to take a step closer to your dreams through the reading of his story.
How did you come to publish the book?
It is said that everyone lives with what they want to do in their hearts. My dream was to publish a book; I vaguely thought that I wanted to be an author. However, in Korea, civil servants are not allowed to hold two positions concurrently…but being an author is fine (laughs).
My department team leader is a judge and a writer, who has published several books while also doing his job. Through him, I learned in detail what to do with regards to publishing and working as a public official, and it was then that I was able to embody my dream of publishing books. My first book was, ‘I Decided to Find a Hidden Time Today’, which came out before ‘The Day I Met My Friend Who Wanted to Become a Government Official.’ It was a book that contained tips for how to manage your time, and then the second book was also published simply because I wanted to share my life with those interested in becoming public officials.
Is the story of Joo Won, the main character in the book, the same as your story?
There are two main characters in the book, along with the people around them. Technically, most of them are me. My thoughts and stories have been expressed as several characters. I did some interviews and research to provide much more interesting stories, but most of it is my story. From the moment I decided to become a government official, to the moment I become one, I honestly remember one single moment in particular. On my first day, when I took the public service examination, I was frustrated that I didn’t even grade it. Thankfully, I got blessed, and I passed the exam, but there were some difficulties as well. Although I do say that I remember everything, I sometimes forget how much I wanted to get this job. ‘Was this really the right thing for me?’ Not only me but also my colleagues around me have the same idea. That’s why I wrote this book.
Joo Won, in the book, decided to become a public official because of what his friend said to him. What made you want to become a public official?
Mostly, I think my parents influenced me. My mother retired after a long career as a public official, and she told me many good things about government employees. Should I call this a sort of cramming education? (laughs) I was torn between working for a private corporation and working as a government official, but I finally felt like it would be more worth it for me to work for the country instead of for a company.
I’d like to hear from you as a government official.
I have been working for ten years now as a government official. In these ten years, I have transferred to a different department three times. The first department was the Institute for Unification Education, under the Ministry of Unification. It plans and hosts events, related to unification, for students in Korea. We designed and hosted many events that gave students a positive view of unification. Now, I am currently working at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration. Like the main character in the book, I wanted to work in different departments, and I was able to put details about transferring jobs in my book because it was my real story.
What do you think is the best thing in your life?
This is a question that has made me think a lot. But, no matter how much I think about it, I think in the end the answer is “love”. I think I have managed my time well because I love time management, which was the topic of the first book. Because I love my precious family, neighbors, and myself, I want to spend each 24 hours – which is given equally, to everyone – meaningfully, and not just let it pass. The reason why I wrote this book is because of love as well: I wanted to share information, because I love people who want to go down the same path. Although becoming a government official is not easy, I hope that my book is even just a bit helpful for those trying to to reach the same goal.
Is there anything you would like to say to those who dream of becoming a government official in Korea?
I have met many colleagues during my ten years of public service. I have seen those who have not thought about life after becoming public officials. Since becoming a public official requires a high score on exams in Korea, not many applicants can think about life after becoming government officials. Even if you tried so hard to get this job, you may feel skepticism after achieving your goal; the position may not be as good as you think it would have been. What you see from the outside is different from what you see inside. So, I would like to ask you to think about what your life could be like after becoming a public official, and this question actually applies to any person. Living life, after pursuing any dream, is essential. You shouldn’t only live for your dreams as a goal, because dreams can just become another means of dreaming, someday.