How Guri became Korea’s cleanest government

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How Guri became Korea’s cleanest government

The Guri city government took top prize for integrity Monday, according to the Anti Corruption & Civil Rights Commission, a victory for a city that ranked the worst in 2005.

From August to November, the commission questioned about 150,000 citizens and 76,000 civil servants nationwide as to whether they witnessed or experienced corruption in their local governments. The commission then graded the level of integrity of the local governments.

The Guri city government received the highest score, 8.67 out of ten. The city ranked worst for integrity in 2007 among 31 governments in Gyonggi and last nationwide in 2005.

The reversal came as a result of a clean government campaign led by Mayor Park Young-sun, who took office in July 2006.

“I feel I came out to heaven from hell,” Park said. “I know it is hard to keep our place at the top, but I will keep it no matter what.”

In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo in January 2008, Park said he felt so embarrassed about his city’s reputation that he wanted to hide himself.

“I don’t want to give interviews,” he said, “or have my photograph taken as the worst mayor,” he added.

Since then, the 61-year old mayor ordered civil servants to sign a “pledge to keep clean contracts,” which prohibits them from taking bribes when they approve contracts worth more than 500,000 won; civil servants who took bribes or gifts of any value were fired; locals were urged to report witnessing bribe taking to civil servants and offered rewards to whistle-blowers of up to 10 million won ($8,699).

In October 2008, Park established a Happy Call Center, which citizens could call to report civil servants’ wrongdoings.

“I worked hard to remove the label of worst mayor from my back, and to make the city [clean],” Park reflected.

The mayor said he is now focusing on “100 action plans to realize a fair society,” a scheme that encourages voters to participate in budget plans and tax policy and set up a one-on-one service center for complaints about the government.

“We will hold a special event on Jan. 4, 2011 with 100 officials from city hall, the police station, the fire office and tax agencies,” Park said. At the event, the officials are supposed to sign a pledge to create a “clean city.”


By Jeon Ik-jin, Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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