Rooting out official corruptionMore than 50 police officers who formerly worked at the Nonhyeon Precinct of Gangnam are under investigation by the prosecution for having received more than 1.4 billion won ($1.2 million) in bribes from entertainment businesses, including hostess bars or massage parlors, in the affluent part of town. Policemen have often been punished for their individual corruption, but nothing this widespread has been uncovered before. The issue testifies to the severity of corruption in our police.
In the area the Nonhyeon Precinct covered, there are a number of hostess bars and massage parlors. The fact that the police officers - who should keep a close watch on illegal prostitution in the area - received 60 million won from the business owners every month means they abandoned their basic obligation. We are dumbfounded by our law enforcement officers’ blatant dereliction of duty.
The National Police Agency stressed that the transgression had occurred before it launched a massive reshuffling of officers in charge of cracking down on the entertainment world’s illegal operations. However, we can hardly believe that such terrible practices have been allowed to continue with the aid of the public servants. Moreover, it is hard to rule out the possibility that bribes were transferred to those higher up on the chain of command given that the total bribe was divided up every month by a designated officer based on hierarchy.
The police have repeatedly come up with measures designed to prevent corruption and reinforce self-discipline, taking disciplinary action against officers involved and setting up a task force whenever a case of police corruption was uncovered. But the latest incident is proof that the police aren’t doing a good enough job.
Besides imposing severe punishments on all officers involved, the government must do even more to root out corruption in the police force.
In this sense, we take special note of a bill proposed by the Anticorruption and Civil Rights Commission. The bill mandates that the government strictly regulate soliciting from civil servants. If government workers take bribes, they would be subject to specified criminal penalties.
Corruption among frontline police officers is a litmus test for the integrity of the public sector. Korea’s drop to 43rd place last year from 39th in 2010 in Transparency International’s corruption index is not unrelated to the rampant police corruption. The government must eradicate the evil.