[EDITORIALS]Rotten applesIt’s a case of the fox guarding the chicken coop. A senior National Tax Service official was arrested on suspicion of illegally returning a corporation tax payment from a hotel in the jurisdiction of a tax office he headed. His house was searched and the results of the search were shocking. The investigators found rolls of new bills and gift certificates piled up all around the house. One corner of a room was actually a warehouse for liquor, including 200 bottles of premium Scotch whiskey ― more than the quantities stocked by many bars. He said they were gifts ― no strings attached.
The government launched the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption last year. It developed an ethical code for government employees, under which they should accept no entertainment ― meals or drinks ― worth more than 30,000 won ($24) or gift certificates worth more than 50,000 won. But the arrest of this tax official shows that corruption among government officials is still serious and ethical codes are still nothing but empty talk. It has been the reality in Korea that every head of the National Tax Service has been indicted for receiving “congratulatory money” when he was the head of a local tax service office.
Korea is already infamous as the “Republic of Bribery.” According to a report by Transparency International, Korea was ranked 42d among 91 countries and the worst among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in last year’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
Laws and common sense fade before corruption. The general public thinks that hunting for good connections and giving bribes are necessary for advancement or success in business and that some corruption is natural.
Of course, we should not criticize all government employees because of one case. But this one indicates that corruption is still a major issue. Tax officials should take this matter seriously; the war against corruption should go on and new cases should be punished severely.