Overhaul the Chest corruption

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Overhaul the Chest corruption

The “fruits of love” - three tiny red balls dangling from a plastic branch - is the symbol of the Korea Community Chest, which manages donations from average citizens. The emblem represents the philanthropic ideal that one should love one’s neighbours as “I do myself and my family.”

But we are astonished by the latest revelation that the organization has long been involved in various types of malpractice and corruption, including misuse of public money. Such behavior betrays the goal of the organization for purely public purposes. We especially are deeply worried that the incident may put a damper on the culture of sharing that has gained momentum in recent years.

The KCC is the only community chest allowed by law. Considering its monopolistic status, both high moral standards and an utmost level of transparency in its operations are prerequisites for their job. But we are profoundly frustrated by staff members’ unscrupulous behavior and officials’ inability to control them.

After donations went missing, a staff member at the KCC’s Incheon branch was found to have attempted to forge documents, and his superior didn’t try to resolve the case - even after he received a report about it. Another senior staff member at the KCC’s Gyeonggi branch spent 33 million won ($29,500) on a corporate credit card at expensive karaoke bars and submitted a fake receipt to his supervisors. We are dumfounded by reports that they even paid a regular salary to a celebrity working as an honorary ambassador for the group, a person who never even came to the office.

We cannot be so naive as to assume that such bad practices were confined to just a few staffers. When the issue is public donations, we cannot let the fox guard the henhouse or the organization will lose its raison d’etre.

From now on, the authorities should craft measures to strengthen transparency and trust by establishing systematic ways to keep a close watch on it. The Ministry of Health and Welfare, which is responsible for overseeing the organization, should root out all potential corruption and think about how to further wrongdoing can be prevented.

Fortunately, donations have been on the rise. Statistics show that the total amount of donations collected by the organization was 267.4 billion won in 2007, 270.3 billion won in 2008 and 331.8 billion won last year. We should never let corruption dampen such an encouraging development.
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