Weeding out corruption

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Weeding out corruption

Min Jong-gi, governor of Dangjin County, South Chungcheong, was stopped at the airport as he was trying to fl ee the country, and still continues to elude authorities. The forged passport in his pocket revealed the urgency of his situation.

Min is facing strong allegations of corruption. His long fall from promising leader to corrupt official makes us feel bitter and angry rather than sympathetic. We are particularly enraged by his two faces: shining example and rotten politician.

Min appeared to be the ideal governor. He graduated from the prestigious Air Force Academy and earned a doctoral degree in economics in the United States. After becoming a public official, he was director of South Chungcheong’s regional economy bureau and deputy mayor of Nonsan and Cheonan. As an official, he was almost flawless, as he understood both the theory and practice of economics and had extensive administrative experience.

But in a recent investigation by the Board of Audit and Inspection, it was revealed that Min had awarded seven construction contracts to a particular company in return for a villa worth 300 million won ($272,000). It was also found that he managed a slush fund worth 2 billion won through his sister-in-law and her female subordinates, whereas his assets — which he reported as 546 million won — had increased by just 9.18 million won from the previous year. On the surface, he was a man with perfect qualifications. Underneath, he was a corrupt official with a good disguise.

The problem is that he was not weeded out by the political parties’ nomination process. In fact, he was nominated as a mayoral candidate by the now-defunct Uri Party (which preceded the Democratic Party) in the past two local elections and then was successfully elected. The wide array of corrupt acts he allegedly committed was discovered after his re-election. How was it possible for such a person to leave the Uri Party for the ruling Grand National Party and still get the nomination? Min’s behavior is typical of our “migrating politicians.” Although the ruling party belatedly declared his nomination invalid, that was nothing but a tacit admission that their screening system was flawed.

And nobody is sure that Min will be the only politician to pass through the screening process in the upcoming local election. It is difficult to eliminate noxious plants that are already deeply rooted in the soil. We need to uproot them before it’s too late. With little time left before the local election on June 2, all political parties should make their best effort to root out the corruption within their ranks. If they make a bad choice, it is the people who will suffer the damage.
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