Air Quality Management Policy in South Korea: Blind Men and the Elephant

Abstract

This case depicts the policy challenges and strategies of Mi Young Hong, the Director of the Air Pollution Control Department in South Korea’s Ministry of the Environment (MOE). Hong encounters various obstacles and opportunities as she design and enforce air quality regulations that directly affect the life and health of citizens. As students read, they will gain a concrete understanding of the possibilities as well as the frustrations that inevitably come with managing a controversial government agency in a political environment.


This case illustrates various uncertainties and challenges in different stages of policy processes – problem definition/identification, policy alternatives construction, policy making and implementation. The case provides opportunities for students to learn about the different public policy characteristics (particularly protective regulatory policies), the political incentives deriving from the benefits and costs of different policies, and the importance of reliability and consistency of government policies when policy problems involve high levels of uncertainty and conflicts among stakeholders. The case also shows how the conflicting policy priorities and alternatives proposed by different government departments can aggravate confusion among citizens and fail to guide the behavior of target groups in desired ways. Finally, the case suggests the importance of having a long-term, holistic perspective on the broad outcomes of policy designs and implementation related to air quality, due to its unintended and disproportionate effects on certain groups. 


The case allows instructors to emphasize the importance of a long-term view in the design, implementation, and evaluation of public policy. The diverse aspects of the policy problem demonstrate the utility of a holistic approach to achieve policy goals. Following analysis of the various issues and challenges that the case documents, classroom discussion can focus on strategic efforts to develop criteria for making policy decisions that affect various stakeholders in different ways. 

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