[EDITORIALS]Let’s end regional corruptionThe delivery of 200 million won ($174,000) in cash inside a box addressed to the sister of Incheon Mayor Ahn Sang-soo is truly bizarre. Mr. Ahn said that he rejected about 30 attempts to give money to him since becoming mayor. This is a depressing incident that makes ordinary people who work hard feel weary.
At the moment, regional governments enjoy an enormous amount of power following the trend to greater regionalization and decentralization.
Construction orders total 17.7 trillion won a year, which amounts to 10 percent of the government budget. The administrative system therefore should function transparently, and public officials should maintain a high level of integrity. However, the reality runs counter to this. The lobbying and bribes by firms trying to gain various business approvals and construction projects are corrupting the public officials in municipal governments.
There is even a case where a head of a municipal government was arrested for allegedly secretly buying land that is expected to be released from “greenbelt” regulations through a relative, and then reselling the land to gain tens of billions of won in profit. Cases of granting flood reconstruction projects to well-known acquaintances are frequent. Indeed, a regional contract law is under consideration whereby relatives of regional heads or their spouses are prohibited from participating in the construction projects of that region so as to prevent nepotism.
The sinister thing is that the corruption of regional governments is becoming more blatant. Currently two regional mayors who were elected by the public have committed suicide after being investigated on corruption charges, and about 20 are currently either jailed or under investigation.
There is even a saying in municipal governments that it costs 30 million won to be appointed a junior official and 50 million won to be named a senior one. A regional head said, “About 70 percent of regional heads receive kickbacks for granting promotion.”
If this persists, municipal governments will become “self-governing corrupt” bodies. The biggest reasons for the corruption of regional heads are massive election costs and lack of individual integrity. Strong restraining measures should be introduced to prevent corruption. Also, the excessive regulations should be lessened in order to stop another incident such as the box of money from happening again.