[EDITORIALS]Ethics code shields bigwigsThe Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption has released a code of conduct for public servants. At first glance it appears to be too ambitious. The code specifies in detail acceptable types of gains, including gifts and entertainment, for public officials. We recognize in the code the commission's will to nurture a healthy culture for public officials. But we doubt the code will be a landmark measure in eradicating corruption. It is a bitter reminder of all the promising measures that failed. Some public officials have already expressed their opposition to the code, which ignores the reality.
The people are familiar with all kinds of measures to prevent corruption by public officials. Whenever a scandal errupts, we turn out a barrage of novel ideas. The latest code says public office holders must get approvals in advance to hold a side job that pays more than 30 percent of their annual salary. The code also says that public officials whose family members are involved in corruption will be punished, and officials are also not allowed to disclose their workplace and rank in their wedding and funeral notices.
Those clauses cause us to wonder if the code can be effective. How can we regulate public officials' side jobs by how much they make? Ventures can make or lose money. Punishing officials for the wrongdoings of their spouses or close family members opens more controversy.
Promising to eradicate corruption, the government put forward 10 recommendations for public servants in 1999. But political heavyweights and the president's sons raked in huge sums of questionable wealth. Now the government says a new code of conduct for public officials will work.
The proliferation of corruption by public officials is not the result of an absence of laws or codes. In fact, we have too many of them. History shows us that corruption is eliminated when the president and his inner circle act with resolve. The scandals have been perpetrated by heavyweights in this government. But the code seems to be a scheme to blame the rank-and-file public officials for the scandals. This latest effort is merely a political solution to protect the officials in question.