[FOUNTAIN]Seeing through transparency

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[FOUNTAIN]Seeing through transparency

"Transparent" means clear enough to see through. When a person's remarks or attitude or a situation is clear, it is often said to be transparent. After the financial crisis that began in 1997, the use of the word increased sharply. In politics and business, filthy secrets came to light; people called for fairness, ethics and transparency more than ever. They wanted a reduction of the costs they have to pay because of nontransparent activities.

Transparent products are also on the market: stereos, watches and soap, for example. That is a different type of transparency -- or is it?

Some of the local government heads who were elected recently have unusual administrative styles. They focus on transparency, and some of their attempts to increase it are interesting. Transparent windows replaced walls in county and city offices in Suncheon and Naju, South Jeolla province, and in Goseong, Geochang and San-cheong in South Gyeongsang province. Some local government heads relocated their offices to the first floor beside the main entrance. The Daejeon city office promised to open its senior officials meeting to the press once a week. They rushed to make themselves appear sincerely transparent.

Transparency became their administrative focus because of the numerous cases of fraud among local officials. Among 248 former local government officials, 54 were investigated by prosecutors for alleged offenses including bribery and violation of election laws. This is more than double the 21 officials elected in the previous local polls who ran afoul of the law. There was also a series of controversies regarding appointments and public construction orders. It seems as if the new officials came up with transparent offices as an emergency measure to change the negative perceptions of voters about all officials.

Transparent administration is not something that can be achieved in the short term. The Seoul city office's online system of civil affairs, an anti-corruption report center and a contract system that stresses fairness have been praised for being truly transparent administration. Many Asian countries and even developed countries took an interest in these measures to fight corruption.

Residents should strive to create transparent constituencies to help local governments overcome the perception that they are full of corruption, as Seoul city did. They need an extensive in-house inspection system and measures to conduct administrative inspections frequently. Transparent offices should not be just for show.



The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Choi Chul-joo

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