Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: How Evidence Maneuvers in the Korean Civil Servant Pension Reform: Implications for the Democratic Evidence-Based Policy-Making

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 8:30 AM
President's Room (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Mi Sun Jeon and Young Jun Choi, Yonsei University
The evidence-based policy, instead of opinion-based policy or ideology-driven policy, has become a major paradigm in public policy-making in recent years. Its ‘what works’ approach emphasizes the rational approach, and, accordingly, much effort has been made to improve the quality of evidence. While many analytical and methodological techniques have been developed to present ‘better evidence’, many studies express concerns about the negative aspect of evidence-based policy, particularly knowledge monopolization and its impact on the ‘democratic policy-making’. Also, evidence created by actor’s intention, i.e. policy/politics-based evidence instead of evidence-based policy, could enhance social conflicts around policy-making rather than relax the conflicts.

This paper aims to discuss how evidence plays in public policy-making using the case of the civil servant pension reform in South Korea and draw implications as to how to make evidence-based policy-making and democratic public policy-making compatible. Pension reforms are increasingly important and ubiquitous along with rapid ageing process in many countries. Evidence relating to the long-term projection of the finance of public pensions and demographic changes is regarded as crucial evidence, but not many actors in the reform process could produce or understand the evidence-making. More often than not, besides, different actors propose contradictory evidence. As a result, despite increasing the quality and the quantity of evidence, social conflicts around the reform have been intensified. The civil servant pension reform process in 2015 Korea can offer the interesting case study examining the dynamic role of evidence and actors’ strategic moves exploiting evidence in public policy-making.

For the research, we will conduct the case study of the civil servant pension reform by reviewing various documents produced by political parties, government ministries, and relevant organizations including labour unions. In addition, we will conduct in-depth interviews with key informants who are participating in the reforming process. We will argue that while the development of evidence-based policy contributes to enhancing the quality of public policies, it should be embedded in the democratic public policy-making.