[FOUNTAIN]Public funds, private gains

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[FOUNTAIN]Public funds, private gains

Many people remember Cho Byeong-gab as one of the most corrupt officials of the Joseon Dynasty. He was appointed magistrate of Gobu during the reign of King Gojong. Blaming a famine, Cho mobilized people to create a reservoir and then collected water taxes. He raised funds to build a monument in honor of his father. Diverting tax money collected from the people into his own pocket, he caused the Donghak Farmers' Revolution in 1894.

By contrast, Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore, contributed greatly in leading his government with integrity. In his memoirs, he said leaders of developing countries in Asia struggled to free their people from oppression, but became plunderers after a certain time and ravaged people of their property. Mr. Lee expressed indignation over Asian countries that had to retreat to the backwardness because of corruption. As a result, he launched the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. In the beginning of his administration, Mr. Lee promised the public that all government departments would report all income - even $1 - to the respective authorities, and that the government would make public how the money was used for the benefit of Singapore citizens. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau established a system of supervising authorities at the government's discretion and succeeded in polishing the government's image.

Whenever a country moves to the next stage of its development, the country often ends up with an overvalued economy. The people suffer from the insolvency of financial institutions. Inevitably, the anger of the people shakes an administration at its roots. Japan faced such a situation five years ago, but the government succeeded in overcoming the crisis by appointing a stubborn lawyer to head the Resolution and Collection Corp., an agency that collected bailout funds. That person was Kohei Nakabo. At that time, the bubble in real estate and in the stock markets in Japan had burst and 52 financial companies faced bankruptcy. The Japanese government spent 685 billion yen ($5.54 billion) in bailout funds. Some executives of the bailed-out financial companies were found to have diverted their assets to keep them from being seized. In some cases, the whereabouts of the bailout funds was unknown. Amid threats on his life, Mr. Nakabo led investigations to find the embezzlers.

Korea needs someone like Mr. Nakabo, who would be responsible for managing and collecting bailout funds - even at the risk of his life.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Choi Cheol-ju

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