[OUTLOOK]Corruption tends to repeat itselfIn 1992, a group of young Italian prosecutors led by Milan judge Antonio Di Pietro formed a group called Mani Pulite, or Operation Clean Hands. This revolutionary anti-corruption group declared that it would break chronic ties of corruption in Italian politics by conducting thorough investigations and fair implementation of the law without offering any sanctuaries.
More than 3,000 politicians and businessmen were questioned by the Mani Pulite prosecutors and some 1,400 were arrested. Among those indicted for corruption were major figures in Italian politics such as Giulio Andreotti, who had served as prime minister seven times.
However, more than 10 years later, despite Mani Pulite’s efforts, many Italian businessmen admit that corruption is still rampant in Italian politics and that they are prepared to give bribes to politicians. Ultimately, nothing seems to have changed. Italian politics has drawn a “dal segno’’ (or repeat) sign when it comes to corruption.
Corruption is like a spring. It contracts when the pressure is on, but once things get better, it reappears. Nothing in this world is as adaptable as corruption, and nothing is as resilient. Corruption is often used with intense words like scrape out, or “cheokgyeol” in Korean, which means to separate the flesh from bones.
Unless such drastic measures are taken, corruption always draws a dal segno sign, repeating itself from the beginning.
A public consensus, that political corruption must be eradicated at whatever cost, gives the prosecution the strength to wield the sword that will scrape the flesh and bones of corrupt political funds. The prosecution is also expected to carry out its investigation in good faith. Yet there are hints that politicians have already returned to their old selves after being caught off guard by the prosecution probe.
The president is an example. Not long ago, the president expressed his distress over the investigation. These days, however, the president has cheered up for some reason. There are no traces of the firm resolution that had prompted him only weeks ago to call for a vote of confidence and admit that he was “ashamed to face the cabinet members and the public.” One is astonished at the boldness of President Roh, who was seen playing a round of golf with his wife during what should have been working hours.
If Mr. Roh was a president who was more aware of the seriousness of the situation, that the entire country has been buzzing about the investigation into corrupt election funds during last year’s election that made him president, he would not have behaved in such a way.
These days, hardly any newspaper talks about the vote of confidence, but strictly speaking, we are still in the same woeful state that caused the president to propose the vote. The reason the entire country is talking about the election funds investigation is because there was a tacit political agreement between the government and the parties that the proposed vote of confidence should be decided upon after the investigation into the illegal campaign funds, including the allegations against Choi Do-sul and other close aides of President Roh. Therefore, the president should be demonstrating more self-discipline and making a more concerted effort to find a solution to the problem of bribery and illegal campaign funds.
The same goes for the leaders of opposition parties. Grand National Party Chairman Choe Byung-yul had announced that he would await his punishment silently. Yet his actions do not support his words.
Moreover, the logic that Mr. Choe is using to call for a special investigation team appears unconvincing to the public. Mr. Choe claimed that the prosecution’s current investigation is biased and only emphasizes the wrongdoing of the opposition parties. It seems that he still has no idea what the people think. No wonder the Grand National Party is sinking fast even though it is the majority party in the National Assembly, with more than half the seats.
The people do not want a dal segno sign when it comes to corruption. The president, the party leaders and all other politicians should seriously reflect on the fundamental causes of this situation. Action, not words, is needed.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong