80 pct of citizens say more security-related civil servants needed: poll

SEOUL, Aug. 12 (Yonhap) -- More than eight out of 10 South Koreans think the government needs to increase manpower in charge of coping with disasters and public security, a poll showed Monday.

According to the nationwide survey of 1,000 citizens aged 19 and older, 200 experts and 200 civil servants, 81 percent said the government needs to beef up its manpower in the fields of firefighting and disaster management, followed by 73 percent in the field of public safety and security and 65 percent in the welfare arena.

By contrast, the ratio of the respondents who saw the need for more staff in the fields of economy, education and culture, and diplomacy and national defense came to around 30 percent each, the survey showed.

Of administrative agencies that deal with civil complaints and relevant affairs, 75 percent said fire stations have the greatest need for an increase in personnel, followed by 62 percent selecting police stations and 58 percent saying public nursery schools.

As of 2011, South Korea had 37,826 firemen, far smaller than the 159,354 firefighters for Japan and the 344,050 for the United States, according to the data compiled by the National Emergency Management Agency.

South Korea has also seen a higher death rate among its firefighters. An average of seven firefighters died each year between 2007 and 2011, marking 1.85 deaths out of every 10,000 firemen, while Japan saw 0.7 deaths and the U.S. had 1.01 victims per every 10,000 firemen.

In an effort to guarantee public safety and security by responding to disasters more systematically, the government has vowed to increase the number of public jobs in those sectors, including police officers and firefighters, by 20,000 over the next five years.

The phone-based survey was conducted by polling agency Gallup Korea for about a week from June 26 at the request of the Ministry of Security and Public Administration to learn public notions about the government structure. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

"We will reflect the survey results in our mid- to long-term manpower management plan to meet the needs of the people," ministry official Chun Seong-tae said.

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