Ninety-four new graduate hires to the Foreign Ministry kicked off fiscal 2002 on Monday by expressing their resolve to serve the country and win the public’s trust.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi encouraged the new bureaucrats to make reforming the ministry part of their agenda, and to learn and gain experience to carry out diplomacy that serves the nation’s interests.

“I want you always to remember that you are the ones who will lead the future Foreign Ministry and Japan’s diplomacy,” Kawaguchi told the audience, including 20 professional career-track diplomats.

“My panel (of outside experts) is working on the reform agenda . . . but the most important thing is that you work on reforming the ministry as well,” she said.

A new female career-track diplomat said she had been saddened by the almost daily news headlines about the Foreign Ministry’s scandals, but added she wants to work hard to rebuild the ministry.

“I want to contribute to creating a new and better Foreign Ministry,” she said, adding that she does not have an elitist mentality, a characteristic of ministry bureaucrats often criticized by the public.

A male diplomat-to-be, also on a career track, said he wants to change the ministry to regain the public’s trust. Asked if he can say no to pressure from politicians — a problem highlighted by lawmaker Muneo Suzuki’s heavy and scandalous influence on the ministry — he replied with a firm “Yes.”

Reform suggestions

Change at the Foreign Ministry requires internal desire and outside competition, an external panel said.

Members of an advisory panel for reforming the Foreign Ministry suggested Monday that the corruption-tainted ministry introduce a more competitive personnel system to eliminate the elitist mentality among some career diplomats.

Members of the “panel for change” also shared the basic view that the desire for change needs to come from within, according to Orix Corp. Chairman Yoshihiko Miyauchi, who heads the panel.

In a briefing of the panel’s third meeting at the ministry’s Iikura guesthouse in Tokyo, Miyauchi also said most members agreed on the need for the ministry to actively appoint qualified personnel from the outside to ambassadorial and other senior posts.

The Orix chairman questioned the system in which the career tracks of ministry personnel, based on the types and results of their entrance examinations, are more or less set at the time they begin their careers

“The personnel should always work hard and be in a friendly rivalry with each other while pursuing national interests and providing good service to the public,” Miyauchi said.

He said the panelists agreed on the need to improve the consular services provided to Japanese nationals overseas, suggesting that ambassadors should also directly offer such services as a means of eliminating elitism and encouraging a more customer-oriented atmosphere.

In terms of reforming the personnel system, some suggested that young ministry staff be dispatched to international organizations and that the ministry appoint outside experts in areas that include accounting, personnel and general affairs, to gain their expertise.

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