Corrupt co-opThe Supreme Court finalized a five-year prison sentence for Chung Dae-kun, president of the National Agricultural Co-op, for taking bribes. Chung was indicted for receiving 300 million won ($300,000) in return for selling one of the co-op’s properties at a price lower than market value to Hyundai Motor Company. This makes him the third of three National Agricultural Co-op presidents appointed after the direct election system was introduced in 1988 to be arrested for corruption while still in office.
It is certainly not news that the National Agricultural Co-op is a hotbed of corruption. From 2004 to June 2007, more than 70 billion won of client money was embezzled or appropriated by the bank’s employees. According to the State Integrity Committee, the co-op has had the largest number of employees lose their jobs due to corruption.
The organization is corrupt from top to bottom. This means corruption is not just an issue of a few individuals, but of the organization as a whole.
Since 2004, the government has spent 119 trillion won on a ten-year project meant to benefit the agricultural community. The majority of the fund is mediated by the National Agricultural Co-op. Talk about giving a fish to a cat.
Previous administrations bear much responsibility for the corruption. They have all said they would reform the co-op but later silently dropped the issue for fear of losing the votes of farmers. As a result, the National Agricultural Co-op snowballed in size to 2.4 million members and itself became a political power. The organization had almost completely unchecked authority.
While it was enjoying uninhibited power, farmers were unable to get out from under increasing debts and taxpayers had to pay more taxes to save them. Imagine the frustration of citizens who had to see the bank’s executives continuously being arrested for corruption.
The National Agricultural Co-op should examine why corruption continues in the organization before making any excuses, and then implement real change.
The next government must undertake serious reforms of the National Agricultural co-op at the beginning of the administration, when it has its greatest power. The integrity of the co-op must be restored and the previously uncontrolled authority of its head should be hugely reduced. Loose branches that have to be cut off just as in the financial industry. When the co-op properly fulfills its purpose, our farmers will be happy to work.