Corruption is out of control

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Corruption is out of control

Our nation’s bureaucracy stinks with corruption. In hot water this time is the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs. The mutual savings bank scandal is proving to be a Pandora’s box, revealing the evils of the powerful - first financial authorities, then politicians and now government officials.

The government pledges to restore discipline within its ranks, but their words ring hollow. The public remains skeptical because the roots of corruption are too deep and entrenched. The corruption charges against the ministry officials are hardly surprising. But we are nevertheless appalled to learn how corruption has become so common and habitual in the bureaucracy.

Government officials are used to extra perks and free entertainment from affiliated associations and umbrella organizations. It is typical for a director of a ministry department to receive bribes in exchange for turning a blind eye to corporate illegalities. With responsible ministries so corrupt, we can hardly expect any better from umbrella organizations. Executives at the Road Traffic Authority and the Land and Housing Corp. are often carried away in handcuffs after their desk drawers are revealed to have bundles of cash.

What’s more worrisome is that corruption among bureaucrats is getting worse. An administrative arm of the Prime Minister’s Office conducted a survey of 1,000 businessmen last year and discovered levels of government corruption were at their highest since 2000, with 86.5 percent saying corruption among senior government officials was “severe.” The Corruption Perception Index published annually by Transparency International edged down to 5.4 in 2010 from 5.5 in 2009. It recently rated Korea as being passive in fighting bribery. The Financial Times recently reported that Korean financial markets suffer from the “Korea discount” because of concerns about corruption.

Our market and society will continue to be discounted unless we root out corruption. The Lee Myung-bak government must realize that corruption has worsened under its rule. It may have overlooked ethics and morality in public service by overemphasizing results and accomplishments.

The president has belatedly stressed restoring discipline in the civil service. He must start with delving into the corruption at the Land Ministry and the Financial Supervisory Service. Corruption is bred by an excess of power. The government should come up with measures to disperse authority and reinforce transparency.
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