The credibility crisisDespite the power invested in them, certain government institutions, like the prosecution, do not have public credibility. This could suggest that public authority may be out of sync with the Korean public.
According to a joint survey by the JoongAng Ilbo and East Asia Institute, out of 24 public authorities public awareness of the prosecution and the National Tax Service has sharply increased. In terms of recognition or awareness, the prosecution moved up to third rank from fifth in 2011 and the National Tax Service to seventh from ninth. Public confidence in the two institutions ranked 14th and 11th, respectively.
The agencies failed to win a level of confidence equal to their increased recognition. The police and the National Intelligence Service ranked sixth and 14th respectively, in terms of recognition, but were eighth and 16th in confidence.
The gap between recognition and confidence is a serious matter. If the public lacks confidence in public institutions that wield power, the people may not accept or approve their findings or decisions.
Even considering that the public sector cannot keep up with the developments in the private sector amid economic and social advances, the level of credibility in government institutions is too low. If this keeps up, the law and order necessary to maintain our community could be at risk.
The prosecution, which has the biggest gap between the public’s recognition and its trust, should seriously ponder ways to win back public credibility. The prosecution this year took up high-profile cases like the investigation into the hidden wealth of former president Chun Doo Hwan and his relatives to collect an outstanding fine, allegations that the National Intelligence Service interfered in last year’s presidential election, and a slush fund-tax evasion probe into CJ Group. Its reputation improved from last November when the prosecutor-general stepped down amid internal conflicts and bribery scandals. But a few high-profile cases do not help to raise overall public confidence in the prosecution. The National Tax Service also lost public trust after a bribery scandal.
The government and public institutions must continue reforms in order to win public confidence. They must remember that their service is to the people and must also endeavor to work for the public interest, not their own. They can wield real power when they have the public’s true support.