Getting bribes out of politicsGrand National Party Representative Koh Seung-duk’s allegation that millions of won were handed out ahead of a party convention in 2008 to select a new chairman has sent shock waves through the ruling party. In response, its emergency leadership has supported a thorough investigation by the prosecution. Especially since the party itself made this request, the prosecution should seriously investigate how that manila envelope arrived at Koh’s door.
Koh named National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae as the legislator who sent the money to his office. Park, currently on overseas business trip, has denied the accusations and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. To do so, though, he must come clean during the investigation. He must also relinquish his position as head of the legislature. The messenger who delivered the envelope to Koh’s office reportedly had a bag full of manila envelopes. We don’t know how far this scandal may reach.
The Democratic Unity Party has already called for Park to step down, and the GNP implied resignation is inevitable, saying a responsible person must answer with responsible action. Koh said he did not know the identity of the messenger who carried the envelope to his office, and we hope Park is not using the vagueness of available details to avoid taking responsibility. If there are other lawmakers who received the delivery, they should also step forward.
And authorities must recognize that there are many other incidents worthy of investigation, too. One legislator claimed that a candidate distributed envelopes with 10 million won ($8,650) during the party convention in 2010. There have been talks that during the convention, a candidate had to spend more than 1 billion won in order to win an executive title. Another spoke of rumors that money had been exchanged in return for the introduction of proportional representation in 2008. And this corruption does not seem limited to the GNP. The Democratic Party convention in May 2010 also smelled of dirty deals.
Leaders from both the ruling and opposition camps must revamp party culture. Why do politicians buy fancy titles? It is because in return for the money, they can wield enormous power over party appointments and the selection of candidates for elections.
Politicians must develop solutions to end this problem, and offending parties must know that the prosecution will eventually hunt them down. Confessing before being found out might help preserve their honor.