Stamp out corruption

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Stamp out corruption

The construction industry is reeling from a spike in unlawful practices and corruption scandals. In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday, the president of a subcontractor revealed three abnormal practices running rampant in the whole industry: big construction companies’ unfair treatment of their subcontractors, bribery and swollen construction costs.

The president of the subcontractor always carries with him two business cards: one for himself and the other for the director of a construction company with which he works. He carries his partner’s card because he is obliged to obtain construction orders and lobby or distribute bribes on behalf of the larger company so that the larger company will not be held responsible when a corruption scandal breaks out.

He said he hated seeing such a distorted relationship between the contractors and the subcontractors. He also revealed that while big companies win construction orders at high prices, the subcontractors only receive half of that amount.

The president disclosed the money needed to bribe an official: 500,000 won ($446) to 1 million won for a subdivision head, 2 to 3 million won for a division head and 4 to 5 million won for a local government bureau chief.

The civilian members of technical assessment committees, which are comprised mostly of professors, are also easy targets for bribes. There is even a new type of corruption that involves helping the children of government officials to get jobs at big companies. The president said he had helped seven civil servants’ children to find jobs at such companies.

We are amazed to hear about the continuance of such unscrupulous practices in the construction industry. But what has the government been doing to remedy the problem? Of course, it hasn’t remained idle. It entrusted the task of technical evaluation and assessment to a civilian panel in an effort to strengthen transparency, but to no avail. The government also took pains to announce the names of the panelists two months earlier. But if corruption continues to be a problem, the government must work harder to devise a solution.

Prosecutors and the Fair Trade Commission are also responsible for the mess. If they had done their fair share, the situation could not have escalated to this level. They should thoroughly punish each and every case of wrongdoing. Even though the problem starts with the subcontractors, the government must deal with the root cause: the construction companies.

It must push ahead a stronger policy to eliminate corruption and promote prosperity within the industry.
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