Curing corruption with transparency

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Curing corruption with transparency

How often does Janet Yellen, chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve and overseer of America’s monetary policy, meet with President Barack Obama? Since she was appointed in February, 2014, she has had two 45-minute meetings with President Obama and 21 meetings with Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew.

She also meets many business executives. On November 20, she met with Ford Motor Company executives, and on December 2, she met with JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon for one hour.

Yellen is the most influential economic policy maker in the world, but how she spends her hours is no secret. Who she meets, has lunch or dinner, or talks on the phone with are all precisely recorded. In February, the Wall Street Journal reported Yellen’s daily logs as released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Wall Street Journal analyzed her hours by meeting categories. She spent a total of 42 hours on meetings with White House staff and 18 hours with lawmakers.

The politician she had contacted most frequently last year was Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Yellen had five contacts with Senator Warren from late 2013 to the end of 2014. She had two phone conversations, and one of them lasted half an hour.

The Hill, a newspaper covering Congress, wrote, “Warren has the Fed chief’s ear,” as Yellen had twice as much contact with Warren as other lawmakers.

But it is nearly impossible for someone to influence or pressure Yellen. There is little room for secrecy as the location, time and duration of meetings are all made public, and the transparency certainly plays a role in Yellen’s confidence that the Fed is run independently.

The vigilance of the media in the United States is noteworthy, but the system that discloses the detailed schedules of public servants is more impressive. It makes collusion between people with power and those who want favors unlikely.

Transparency is the most important medicine for a healthy democratic society. A transparent system is the most powerful means of exposing lies and corruption.

The notes left by former chairman of Keangnam Enterprises Sung Wan-jong is shaking the entire country, and the turmoil illustrates the lack of transparency in Korean society. It is comedic to see powerful men initially denying the acquaintances and connections with Sung, only to change their words when their names were found in the note. How about we use the opportunity to disclose the schedules of politicians and high-ranking officials to the public?

*The author is a New York correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, April 25, Page 30


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